Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Lincoln, Nebraska » Agroecosystem Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #318226

Title: Winter oilseed production for biofuel in the US Corn Belt: opportunities and limitations

item Sindelar, Aaron
item Schmer, Marty
item Gesch, Russell - Russ
item Forcella, Frank
item Eberle, Carrie
item Thom, Matthew
item Archer, David

Submitted to: Global Change Biology Bioenergy
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/3/2015
Publication Date: 1/11/2016
Publication URL:
Citation: Sindelar, A.J., Schmer, M.R., Gesch, R.W., Forcella, F., Eberle, C.A., Thom, M.D., Archer, D.W. 2016. Winter oilseed production in the U.S. Corn belt: Opportunities and limitations. Global Change Biology Bioenergy. Available:

Interpretive Summary: Interest in the aviation industry for hydroprocessed renewable fuel has encouraged the exploration of second-generation biofuel feedstocks. However, concern about land use change and associated increases in greenhouse gas emissions has resulted in the evaluation of cropping system intensification instead of conversion. Camelina and pennycress are two winter oilseed crops that are highly desirable for hydroprocessed fuel production because of their favorable oil composition. These crops are also attractive because they grow during periods that are traditionally in fallow and, therefore, can be integrated into prominent corn-soybean cropping systems with limited crop disturbance. Inclusion of these crops into corn-soybean cropping systems may also provide a range of ecosystem services, such as protection from soil erosion and a food source for pollinators. However, there may also be consequences to their inclusion, including soybean yield reductions and weediness. This review discusses the advantages and constraints of integrating winter oilseed crops, mainly camelina and pennycress, into corn-soybean cropping systems in the Corn Belt and identifies generalized areas for potential integration.

Technical Abstract: Interest from the US commercial aviation industry and commitments established by the US Navy and Air Force to use renewable fuels has spurred interest in identifying and developing crops for renewable aviation fuel. Concern regarding greenhouse gas emissions associated with land-use change and shifting land grown for food to feedstock production for fuel has encouraged the concept of intensifying current prominent cropping systems through various double cropping strategies. Camelina (Camelina sativa L.) and field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) are two winter oilseed crops that could potentially be integrated into the corn (Zea mays L.)–soybean [(Glycine max (L.) Merr.] cropping system, which is the prominent cropping system in the US Corn Belt. In addition to providing a feedstock for renewable aviation fuel production, integrating these crops into corn–soybean cropping systems could also potentially provide a range of ecosystem services. Some of these include soil protection from wind and water erosion, soil organic C (SOC) sequestration, water quality improvement through nitrate reduction, and a food source for pollinators. However, integration of these crops into corn–soybean cropping systems also carries possible limitations, such as potential yield reductions of the subsequent soybean crop. This review identifies and discusses some of the key benefits and constraints of integrating camelina or field pennycress into corn–soybean cropping systems and identifies generalized areas for potential adoption in the US Corn Belt.