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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: NEW CROPS AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE CROPPING EFFICIENCY IN SHORT-SEASON HIGH-STRESS ENVIRONMENTS

Location: Soil Management Research

Title: Double- and relay-cropping oilseed and biomass crops for sustainable energy production

Authors
item GESCH, RUSSELL
item Berti, Marisol -
item Johnson, Burton -
item Aponte, Alfredo -
item Ji, Yun -
item Seames, Wayne -
item ARCHER, DAVID

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: June 7, 2013
Publication Date: July 31, 2013
Citation: Gesch, R.W., Berti, M., Johnson, B., Aponte, A., Ji, Y., Seames, W., Archer, D.W. 2013. Double- and relay-cropping oilseed and biomass crops for sustainable energy production. In: Proceedings of the 21st European Biomass Conference and Exhibition, June 3-7, 2013, Copenhagen, Denmark. p. 372-377.

Interpretive Summary: In the U.S. and other developed nations, a major effort is being made to develop renewable sources of energy including that produced from plant-based materials to become less dependent on crude oil (i.e., petroleum). Plant materials such as seed oil can be used for making biofuels to replace or offset the use of petroleum. Therefore, in addition to food, feed, and fiber U.S. agriculture and that of other developed nations are being asked to produce bioenergy feedstock crops that can be made into products to replace petroleum. However, if not managed properly, this added responsibility could threaten food security and the long-term sustainability of agricultural lands. Double cropping is one potential way to manage growing both a biofuel feedstock crop and food crop on highly productive agricultural lands without sacrificing food security or agricultural sustainability. There are two types of double cropping. One way is to immediately plant a summer crop after harvesting the winter annual crop (i.e., sequential double cropping) and the other way is to inter-seed the summer crop into the winter crop early in the spring so that their growth cycles overlap each other. This method is referred to as relay cropping. We have conducted research in west central Minnesota and east central North Dakota. We discovered that camelina can be grown as a winter crop and then harvested early enough the following summer to allow successfully growing a food crop such as soybean or a forage crop such as sorghum. The camelina is grown for the oil produced by its seed, which can be used as a dedicated feedstock for biofuels such as biodiesel and jet fuel. This double-crop system is proving to be a successful way of producing a dedicated biofuel feedstock with a food or forage crop on the same land in a single growing season. Moreover, this system can be used in relatively cool, short-season agricultural areas such as Minnesota and North Dakota. This research will benefit farmers who are looking for a "cash" cover crop (e.g., winter camelina) and by potentially providing additional income for their cropping systems. It will also benefit the biofuels industry.

Technical Abstract: Double- and relay-cropping offers a means to produce a biofuel and food or forage crop in a single season on the same land without sacrificing food security, while potentially boosting profits. Field studies were conducted between 2009 and 2012 in Morris, Minnesota (MN), and Prosper and Carrington, North Dakota (ND), to evaluate double-cropping and relay-cropping (inter-seeding) of soybean (Glycine max L.), maize (Zea mays L.), and forage sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) following winter camelina (Camelina sativa L.) as a dedicated oilseed biofuel feedstock. Results showed that winter camelina consistently yielded about 1100 to 1300 kg ha-1 of seed in MN and as high as >1700 kg ha-1 in ND. Relayed soybean and forage sorghum inter-seeded between camelina rows prior to bolting generally outperformed sequential double-crop treatments with soybean seed yields as high as >2700 kg ha-1 and sorghum dry biomass yields as high as 16 Mg ha-1. Combined seed oil yields of double- and relay-cropped camelina and soybean were greater than either species grown in mono-culture yielding as high as about 1200 L ha-1. Double- and relay-cropping sorghum and soybean with winter camelina to produce bioenergy and food/feed in a single season is a viable system for the northern U.S.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014
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