September Best Time To Plant Winter Canola, Montana Expert Finds

Early part of month best timing, crop systems researcher says.

Published on: Aug 28, 2013

Giving canola a try in Montana will be greatly enhanced by planting in early September, says a Montana State University sustainable cropping systems researcher

Doing so, adds Perry Miller, means the crop will emerge by mid-month and be in tune with the greatest chance of success.

Plants which produce five leaves before winter sets in have a good survival potential, says the MSU scientist. That can lead to flowering  by May 15-June 15, a sign that yields will be good since the seeds grow during the wettest time in Montana.

At the same time, Miller is on record saying he really doesn't encourage Montana producers to     grow winter canola. However, more farmers are asking about his research and planting time is near for them to give it a try.

Perry Miller, second from right, presents information on winter canola at Montana State Us Post Farm near Bozeman.
Perry Miller, second from right, presents information on winter canola at Montana State U's Post Farm near Bozeman.

Miller, who has been investigating the potential of Montana winter canola for a decade, is taking part in a national Winter Canola Variety Evaluation involving researchers in several western states and in Georgia. The MSU site is the northernmost location for the plots.

The national study shows that growing winter canola in Montana isn't the risk it was once thought. That's because  plant breeders have improved varieties and know more now about crop management.

While winter canola may be a better bet for Montana that it was considered to be earlier, it is still what Miller considers a "brittle system." If one thing goes wrong, he says, the crop can fail. At the same time, he adds, if all goes well a farmer can "hit a home run."

Snow, for example, can play a pivotal role in Montana winter canola. Coming at an optimal time, it protects delicate seeds, but with an unfortunate timing, snow can rot seeds.

For more information, contact Miller at or call him at (406) 994-5431.