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Ohio State University Extension


Rapeseed as a Cover Crop in Ohio

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Sarah Noggle; Educator; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County
Rachel Cochran; Extension Associate, Water Quality; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County

Information gathered from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) was used to compile this summary on how to use rapeseed as a cover crop in Ohio. For more information, see the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and the Cover Crop Selector Tool found at: view of field of plants with long, thin stems that have small, yellow flowers blooming up and down the stem.


  • Small, yellow, four-petaled flowers on vertical stems
  • Narrow leaves at top of plant with larger lobed leaves toward the bottom
  • Strong taproot with fibrous lateral roots
  • Rapeseed and canola are the same species, but their oils have different chemical makeup; rapeseed has at least 45% erucic acid content, whereas canola has usually less than 2% erucic acid

Cultural Traits

  • Winter annual
  • Minimum germination temperature: 41 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Reliable establishment window (state average): July 25–Oct. 19
  • Upright growth habit: 3–5 feet
  • Preferred soil pH: 5.5–8.0
Table 1. Rating the traits of cover crop rapeseed.
Heat tolerance Good
Drought tolerance Good
Shade tolerance Good
Low fertility tolerance Good
Winter survival Varies based on specific variety


  • Drilled at ¼–½ inch
    • 1–4 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast with shallow incorporation
    • 2–4 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast without incorporation
    • 3–4 lb./acre (pure live seed)

Additional planting information:

  • 157,000 seeds per lb.
  • Do not use glyphosate-resistant varieties.
  • When planting on slopes or using for forage/grazing, increase seeding rate.
  • Broadcasting without incorporation is usually less dependable than drilling or broadcasting with incorporation.

Disclaimer: Rules for Financial Assistance Program Recipients
Individuals participating in financial assistance programs are required to follow Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A regarding seeding rates and dates. Failure to do so will jeopardize payments. Appendix A can be found in Ohio’s Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4, Ecological Sciences Tools:


  • Dry matter yield = 1,000–2,500 lb. per acre, per year
    • Biomass quantity is highly dependent on planting/termination dates and precipitation.

Additional performance information:

  • Should not be used in rotation with other brassicas.
  • May help reduce rhizoctonia in some cropping systems.
  • May become a serious weed if allowed to go to seed.
  • Does not tolerate ponding.
Table 2. Rating the attributes of cover crop rapeseed.
Nitrogen scavenger Very good
Soil builder Good
Erosion fighter Very good
Weed fighter Very good
Grazing Very good
Quick growth Very good
Lasting residue Good
Cash crop interseed Excellent


  • Tillage
    • If terminating with only tillage, multiple passes are often required.
  • Chemical
  • Winterkill
    • Winter survival varies based on specific variety and conditions

Additional termination information:

  • Kill or till-in at least three weeks before planting cash crop.
  • There is a moderate weed potential if not completely terminated.
  • Follow NRCS guidelines for cover crop termination dates to comply with crop insurance.
Table 3. Potential advantages of cover crop rapeseed.
Soil Impacts
Subsoiler Very good
Compaction fighter Very good
Nematodes Very good
Disease Good
Allelopathic (produces biochemicals that inhibit weeds) Very good
Chokes weeds Very good
Attracts beneficials Very good
Short windows Good

Potential Disadvantages

Delayed emergence: could be a minor problem

Increased weed potential: could be a moderate problem

Increased insects/nematodes: could be a minor problem

Hinders crops: occasionally a minor problem

Mature incorporation challenges: occasionally a minor problem


This publication was adapted with consent from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) with content from the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and Cover Crop Selector Tool ( It was created under a joint project with MCCC to produce customized introductory guidance about cover crops for all member states/provinces. Ohio cover crop recipes can be found at

The Midwest Cover Crops Council ( aims to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest by providing educational/outreach resources and programs, conducting new research, and communicating about cover crops to the public.

Funding for this project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.

Red rectangle with white lettering spelling McKnight Foundation.



Originally posted Apr 11, 2023.