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Home » California, Farming/Growing, Feedstock, Feedstocks, Field Crops, Infrastructure, R & D Focus, Sustainability, University/College Programs

Camelina, Canola Show Promise as Cool-Season Crops

Submitted by on March 7, 2017 – 9:17 pmNo Comment

(The Crop Science Society of America/Biodiesel Magazine)  …  In California, growers usually choose warm-season crops: ones that grow from March to October. But extension agronomist Stephen Kaffka and his team at UC Davis, including project scientist Nic George, explored growing cool-season crops in the same areas. These are grown from October to June.

Why? “Warm-season crops require a lot of irrigation water,” Kaffka said. “They tend to be high-value but water-demanding. Cool-season crops have three advantages: the cooler temperatures allow plants to grow without losing as much water through transpiration (like humans’ sweat) as crops that grow during hot weather. There is also less evaporation of moisture from the soil. Lastly, the cool season is when California, in particular, gets most of its rainfall—so cool-season crops benefit from this direct source of water.”

Kaffka’s team looked at growing canola and camelina. Both are cool-season crops that produce oilseeds. These are seeds that are harvested and processed into oils. Canola and camelina also provide oilseed meal byproducts used for livestock feed. Both crops can be used for biofuels.

There is a market demand for cool-season oilseed crops if U.S. growers used them in their crop rotations.

Using oilseed crops instead of wheat can provide several advantages. “They can provide a disease break when problems arise in wheat and other small grains,” said Kaffka’s research team. “Growing a broadleaf crop where cereals are produced can provide growers with a greater flexibility in weed control options, especially if grassy weeds have become a problem.”

Why did Kaffka’s team decide to research oilseed crops? “California’s climate is similar to southern Australia, where cool-season crops are grown primarily on natural rainfall in winter,” Kaffka and George said. “That region sustains an extensive and successful canola industry. It suggests the agronomic methods and varieties developed for canola in southern Australia could be adopted in California.”

Over the course of three growing seasons, the UC Davis team planted more than 40 varieties of canola and more than 60 types of camelina at multiple locations throughout the state.

Kaffka’s research team showed canola was a clear winner for growing in California.

The results for camelina were not as clear. Its yield and seed oil content were lower and more variable than canola. However, it “displayed greater cold and drought tolerance, so the possibility of camelina being viable for particular niches in California should be investigated further,” Kaffka said.

Kaffka’s team also recommends that further research evaluate more varieties of both crops. Looking at more short-season spring varieties could find even better varieties to recommend to growers.  READ MORE

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