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Winter camelina as a cover crop

Winter camelina is a winter-hardy annual brassica that produces a valuable oilseed crop. It’s an emerging crop for the Upper Midwest.

winter camelina in rows
Winter camelina test plot

About winter camelina

The Forever Green Initiative winter oilseeds team has shown that winter camelina is economically viable and can provide ecosystem services. It can yield up to 1,700 pounds per acre and contains around 38 to 42 percent oil by weight, along with the high levels of omega-3 (linolenic) fatty acid and high levels of vitamin E.

Winter camelina does not carry undesirable traits as some of the other mustard seeds, which would make it more acceptable for the market. Camelina oil is also known to be used as a healthy alternative cooking oil, and renewable aviation fuel.

Use as a cover crop

Many agricultural practices can affect environmental conditions by depleting pollinator populations and diminishing soil quality. To overcome some of these ecological issues, one solution is using cover crops such as winter camelina, field pennycress and intermediate wheatgrass (Figure 1).

These winter crops can suppress herbicide-resistant weeds in the spring, and take up remaining nitrogen or phosphorus in the fall and spring. Introducing winter camelina with its economic benefits could enhance agricultural crop diversity, productivity and can also positively influence the population of beneficial insects.

However, it’s important to understand winter camelina’s agronomics before implementing it in your agricultural system.

chart showing times of year where there are opportunities for biomass production; beginning of summer and end of fall
Figure 1: Opportunities to improve environmental conditions with increased biomass production.


Research findings

Peer-reviewed scientific journals have highlighted the benefits of camelina as a cover crop, showcasing several research experiments. These experiments sought to optimize the fall establishment, grain yield and oil quality of winter camelina into corn and soybean cropping systems.


Ratan Chopra, post-doctoral associate, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS); Maninder K. Walia, post-doctoral associate, CFANS; Katherine Frels, researcher, CFANS; M. Scott Wells, Extension agronomist; M. David Marks, plant and microbial biologist, College of Biological Sciences; Frank Forcella, research agronomist, USDA Agricultural Research Service; Russell Gesch, research plant physiologist, USDA Agricultural Research Service; and Donald Wyse, agronomist, CFANS

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