Camelina

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Plant Characteristics:

  • Non-GMO oilseed crop resistant to Black Leg and Alternaria
  • Very early maturing , 85 – 100 days.
  • Short stature, 40-70 cm in height.
  • Has good cold tolerance, survives spring frost
  • Outperforms canola when moisture is limited or untimely
  • Seeded in Spring or as Winter-seeded annual.
  • Leaves are narrow, sharp-pointed with smooth edges.
  • The flower is small, pale yellow with four petals.
  • The seed pods are tear-shaped holding 9 – 12 small oblong orange-colored seeds.

Camelina is in the Brassica family and it’s a cruciferous crop that is reported to have originated from the Mediterranean to the Central Asian region. It was grown in antiquity and was produced extensively in Europe through the 1800s, falling out of use thereafter.

  • The seed is 38-42% oil. The meal has 45-47% crude protein comparable to soybean.
  • Camelina oil: 54% polyunsaturated [linoleic (15:2), linolenic (18:3)]; 34% monounsaturated [oleic (18:1), eicosenoic (20:1)].
  • Camelina oil has been found in an official test to be applicable in salads, for cooking, baking, and frying except for deep frying (Reimberg, 1994).
  • Biodiesel production, human consumption, dairy, poultry, fish rations, use in soaps and cosmetics are applications for the oil.
  • Camelina seed oil is a promising source for the enrichment of omega-3 faty acids in eggs, and should have significant applications in fish feed.
  • Birdseed.

Growing Camelina

Camelina is adapted to a wide range of soils and climates with dryland production ranging between 20 to 35 bu/ac. Emergence before weed flushes and reported early spring allelopathic suppression of some other plants makes camelina very weed competitive.

When fall or early spring planted, maturity is achieved by early August and there is less risk of heat-blast in July. Camelina is thought to best follow legumes and cereals.

Close rotations with canola and brassicas is not a good agronomic choice.

Seeding

Early seeding helps gain the advantage over weed flushes. Late May planting following glyphosate burn off in Southern Saskatchewan has produced an excellent crop.
Camelina is a small seed which should be surface broadcast or shallow-seeded. Seeding depth should not exceed ½ inch.
Five lbs/acre seeding rate provides 250-300 seeds/m2 typically resulting in a dense, competitive stand.
Harrows with granular applicators provide rapid low cost seed placement. Drills and air seeders have been used resulting in good stands.
Good seed to soil contact with appropriate moisture provides best results. The seedlings are quite cold tolerant, capable of surviving several spring frosts.
Camelina is reported to be able to compensate for early moisture deficits better than flax.

Fertilizer

Camelina is regarded as a low input crop. Good yields have been achieved without fertilizer placement during the growing season.
Tests have shown Camelina responds well to fertile soils and benefits from moderate to high rates of fertilizer.

Weed Management

Perennial weeds should be under control prior to planting. Camelina has proven itself to be a hardy weed competitor. Early emergence in cool environments provides a headstart on weeds. Camelina is reported to be allelopathic – suppressing other plants sharing the same root zone. Preplant ethafluralin and trifluralin have been demonstrated to work as have most grassy weed herbicides. More work is needed to develop herbicides for camelina.

Insect Management

Flea beetle damage is generally insufficient to warrant control. The plant is not generally attractive to insects. Thrips can be a vector to spread aster yellows.

Disease Management

Camelina is susceptible to club root, aster yellows and sclerotinia.

Harvesting

Standard harvesting equipment is appropriate for camelina. Shattering can be significant at advanced stages of maturity. This may be reduced by timely direct harvest which may then require drying down of the seed. Swathing at early maturity allowing for dry down in the swath may be the better option. The transition period from immature to mature can be very rapid in the high temperatures of August.
Camelina is a very small, fine seed that will exceed the ability of flax to escape through small openings.
The nature of the seed allows for high cylinder RPM and close settings. Losses can be encountered due to seed adhering to the opened pods. The air is adjusted to remove light particles and save the seed.
The safe moisture level for long term grain storage is 8%.

Marketing

Eventhough camelina meal has GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) in the United States the research work has not been done in Canada to get CFIA approval to use camelina meal in animal feeds. Camelina oil has novel food status and is sold across North America.
Camelina should be grown with a contract that ensures timely delivery and payment. Camelina is a new crop for the Canadian prairie region. There is a great deal to be learned for the management of this crop.
Caution is advised at all stages, both agronomic and economic. Starting small to manage and minimize the risk while gaining experience and confidence is recommended.