Camelina could help end the food-versus-fuel debate for biodiesel. This article from the American Society of Agronomy says that new research found that growing camelina with soybeans in the Upper Midwest has promising signs.
Russ Gesch, a plant physiologist with the USDA Soil Conservation Research Lab in Morris, Minnesota, found encouraging results when growing Camelina sativa with soybean in the Midwest.
Camelina is a member of the mustard family and an emerging biofuel crop. It is well suited as a cover crop in the Midwest. “Finding any annual crop that will survive the [Midwest] winters is pretty difficult,” says Gesch, “but winter camelina does that and it has a short enough growing season to allow farmers to grow a second crop after it during the summer.”
Additionally, in the upper Midwest, soils need to retain enough rainwater for multiple crops in one growing season. Gesch and his colleagues measured water use of two systems of dual-cropping using camelina and soybean. They compared it with a more typical soybean field at the Swan Lake Research Farm near Morris, MN.
First, researchers planted camelina at the end of September. From there growing methods differed. In double-cropping, soybean enters the field after the camelina harvest in June or July. Relay-cropping, however, overlaps the crops’ time. Soybeans grow between rows of camelina in April or May before the camelina plants mature and flower.
While dual-cropping might not work for everyone, such as farms in the more arid West, where it does work, it also offers benefits, such as boosting soybean yields. Plus, the camelina flowers offer a good food source for pollinators at a time when there might not be a lot for the bees to eat.