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Research Project: Enhancing Cropping System Sustainability Through New Crops and Management Strategies

Location: Soil Management Research

Title: Winter camelina root characteristics and yield performance under contrasting environmental conditions

item ZANETTI, FEDERICA - University Of Bologna, Italy
item Gesch, Russell - Russ
item WALIA, MANINDER - University Of Nevada
item Johnson, Jane
item MONTI, ANDREA - University Of Bologna, Italy

Submitted to: Field Crops Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/28/2020
Publication Date: 4/13/2020
Publication URL:
Citation: Zanetti, F., Gesch, R.W., Walia, M.K., Johnson, J.M., Monti, A. 2020. Winter camelina root characteristics and yield performance under contrasting environmental conditions. Field Crops Research. 252(1):107794.

Interpretive Summary: Producers in Europe and the USA need alternative crops that provide new economic opportunities and that can be rotated with traditional staple crops to help diversify their farming systems. Camelina is an oilseed crop that may provide such an opportunity. Also, because it can be grown as a winter annual crop, it can add living cover to agricultural landscapes that might otherwise remain bare during winter months. However, winter camelina is a relatively new crop and little is known about its productivity and suitability as a crop over a wide geographical range. Moreover, little research has been done to characterize its root growth. A two-year field study was conducted at Bologna, Italy, and Morris, Minnesota, USA to compare the above and below ground (i.e., root) growth, yield, and seed quality of winter camelina cultivated at two different planting rates (500 and 250 seeds m-2) and two different planting dates (early and late fall). Bologna is in north central Italy and has a Mediterranean climate, while Morris is in the north central U.S. and has a temperate climate that experiences harsh winters. Camelina plants grew about 1.7 times larger in Bologna than at Morris, including greater root mass at deeper soil depths. This resulted in seed yield at Bologna that was twice as high as at Morris and seed oil content that was 9% greater. The greater above and belowground plant growth at Bologna was largely due a longer period of vegetative growth during the winter when temperatures were much milder than Morris. At Morris, winter camelina essentially remained dormant between December and March before resuming growth in the spring. Planting rate had little effect on productivity at either location and planting date only had an effect at Morris, where the late planting led to greater seed oil content. Results demonstrated that winter camelina is highly adaptable and has potential to be a viable oilseed crop in Italy as well as the U.S. This information will benefit crop consultants, extension specialists, specialty seed industry, and other researchers developing winter camelina for commercial expansion.

Technical Abstract: A need exists across Europe and the USA for alternative crops to help diversify agricultural systems and promote ecosystem services. Winter camelina is a multipurpose oilseed crop that can be incorporated with staple crops to add biodiversity and other environmental benefits. Little is known about winter camelina productivity across diverse environments, and even less is known about its rooting characteristics under different soils and climates. Therefore, a field study was conducted at Bologna, Italy, and Morris, Minnesota, USA over two growing seasons while applying two seeding rates (500 and 250 seeds m-2) and two sowing dates (early and late) to evaluate the above and belowground productivity of Joelle winter camelina. Winter camelina growth was highly influenced by environmental conditions. Seed yield and oil content were considerably greater at Bologna, averaging 1518 kg ha-1 and 419 g kg-1, respectively, as compared with Morris, which averaged 743 kg ha-1 and 385 g kg-1 during the study. The milder climate of northern Italy was associated with prolonged vegetative growth during winter resulting in root and shoot biomass 1.7-fold greater than in Morris. Plant density at harvest tended to be greater at Bologna but had a negligible effect on productivity at either locations. Sowing date only affected seed oil content at Morris, where it was greater in the later sowing. Results confirmed that winter camelina is highly adaptable and can serve as a viable crop in a Mediterranean as well as temperate climate.