Food or fuel? How about both?

Harvesting camelina from one of the camelina-soybean relay-crop treatments. Photo Credit: Russ Gesch.
Harvesting camelina from one of the camelina-soybean relay-crop treatments. Photo Credit: Russ Gesch.

In the United States, federal mandates to produce more renewable fuels, especially biofuels, have led to a growing debate: Should fuel or food grow on arable land? Recent research shows farmers can successfully, and sustainably, grow both.

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.

The benefits were numerous. Relay-cropping actually used less water than double-cropping the two plants. Camelina plants have shallow roots and a short growing season, which means they don’t use much water. “Other cover crops, like rye, use a lot more water than does camelina,” says Gesch.

Conveniently, the extra water use during dual-cropping takes place in the spring. “We tend to have an excess of moisture in the soil in the spring from the melting snow pack,” says Gesch. Growing camelina as a winter cover crop can help farmers take advantage of spring’s extra moisture.

Read more: Food or fuel? How about both?

 

See Also
via Cyanotech Corporation Microalgae cultivation facility along the Kona Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.

The Latest on: Dual-cropping

[google_news title=”” keyword=”Dual-cropping” num_posts=”10″ blurb_length=”0″ show_thumb=”left”]

via Google News

 

The Latest on: Dual-cropping

via  Bing News

 

What's Your Reaction?
Don't Like it!
0
I Like it!
0
Scroll To Top