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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #410788

Research Project: Managing Nutrient, Carbon, and Water Fluxes to Provide Sustainable and Resilient Cropping Systems for Midwestern Landscapes

Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Title: Winter camelina as an alternative cover crop for central Iowa corn-soybean systems

item Kovar, John
item O'Brien, Peter
item Ruis, Sabrina
item Emmett, Bryan
item Malone, Robert - Rob
item Rogovska, Natalia

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2023
Publication Date: 11/1/2023
Citation: Kovar, J.L., O'Brien, P.L., Ruis, S.J., Emmett, B.D., Malone, R.W., Rogovska, N.P. 2023. Winter camelina as an alternative cover crop for central Iowa corn-soybean systems [abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Highly productive corn (Zea mays L.)-soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) based cropping systems across the upper Midwest are currently under competing pressures to both increase production and reduce their environmental footprint. Multiple management practices have the potential to address these goals, including adaptive nutrient management, conservation tillage, use of cover crops, and alternative cropping system strategies. Winter camelina (Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz) is an appealing oil-seed species to use as a cover crop because it can fit into a corn-soybean rotation while providing some reduction of nitrate losses in subsurface drainage. While camelina has shown some potential for productivity and profitability, the optimal agronomic management is still evolving. We initiated an experiment in 2016 in central Iowa to compare several corn-soybean management systems, including a winter camelina (cv. Joelle) relay crop sown after corn harvest. Growth and development of both aboveground and belowground camelina structures were quantified four times from early spring until maturity. After three rotations, we found that main-crop soybean yields were 15-25% lower when winter camelina was grown as a relay crop. Winter camelina yields were relatively low (0.7 – 1.0 Mg ha-1); however, the sum of soybean and camelina yields led to higher productivity than soybean grown in other management systems. Preliminary analysis of root growth data suggests that camelina roots grew to greater than 1-m depth in the profile well before crop maturity. As expected, root length densities were highest in surface soil (0-15 cm) and deceased with profile depth. Camelina captured N in biomass but did not significantly reduce N loads in subsurface drainage water compared with systems without a cover crop. Winter camelina shows promise as an alternative crop in corn-soybean systems but needs optimization to improve both oilseed yields and soybean grain yields and to provide some reduction of N loads in subsurface drainage.