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Camelina: Long-term cropping systems research in a dry Mediterranean climate

Schillinger, William F.
Field crops research 2019 v.235 pp. 87-94
Camelina sativa, Mediterranean climate, Salsola tragus, Sisymbrium altissimum, alternative crops, arid lands, biofuels, broadleaf weeds, cooking fats and oils, crop rotation, crop year, cultivars, drought tolerance, fallow, fatty acid composition, feedstocks, field experimentation, herbicides, oilseed crops, seed yield, soil profiles, soil water, winter wheat, Washington (state)
Camelina [Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz] is a short-season annual oilseed crop in the Brassicaceae family. Interest in camelina has increased substantially during the past 15 years because the oil is an excellent feedstock for producing low-carbon-emission biofuel and has a unique fatty acid profile as a potential edible oil. Camelina has been promoted as an alternative crop in low-precipitation dryland regions because of its low fertilizer requirement and drought tolerance. An 8-yr field experiment was conducted from 2010 to 2017 at the WSU Dryland Research Station near Lind, WA to compare a 3-yr winter wheat (WW)-spring camelina-summer fallow (SF) rotation with the traditional 2-yr WW-SF rotation. Annual crop-year (Sept. 1-Aug. 31) precipitation ranged from 193 to 375 mm and averaged 281 mm. Camelina seed yield ranged from 339 to 1175 kg/ha and averaged 643 kg/ha. Mean WW yield of 2692 kg/ha in the 3-yr rotation was significantly lower (p = 0.046) compared to 2862 kg/ha in the 2-yr rotation. Soil profile water was significantly lower (p < 0.001) after harvest of camelina compared to after WW harvest in the 2-yr rotation. This soil water reduction was consistently measured throughout the ensuing 13-month fallow cycle. There are no labeled in-crop broadleaf weed herbicides for camelina and populations of Russian thistle (Salsola tragus L.) and tumble mustard (Sisymbrium altissimum L.) were higher in camelina than in WW. This was likely a factor in the deep extraction of soil water in the camelina plots to a depth of 180 cm. Data from this study suggest that, with current cultivars and management practices, camelina is not yet agronomically or economically stable or viable in a 3-yr WW-camelina-SF rotation in the low-precipitation (<300 mm annual) rainfed cropping region of the Inland Pacific Northwest (PNW).