When I (Glen) decided to start farming in 1993, a neighbor took me aside and gave me some words of advice. “It’s ok to not have the biggest yields, but it’s not ok to have the weediest fields.” His words came from a lifelong battle with weeds, without the benefit of transgenic crops that we almost take for granted today. However, a potential oil seed crop, pennycress, is typically labeled as a weed in today’s agriculture.
Pennycress is receiving attention in Illinois & other areas because of its high oil content. Its seeds contain more than 35% oil, while soybeans typically have 16-18% oil. This means that an acre of pennycress could produce 115 gallons of biodiesel per acre, according to www.growpennycress.com. Another significant potential benefit is that pennycress is a winter annual, meaning that it completes its life cycle in the spring. That may lead to the opportunity to produce two crops on the same area of land in one year, also known as double cropping. If it happens, double cropping offers farmers the opportunity to diversify, helps in reducing crop sensitivity to weather, and spreads out the overall risk.
Pennycress. Does it offer promise for the future? Maybe, but there will be a number of associated challenges. Agronomic, economic, and perhaps most importantly, social considerations will all have a significant impact on the ultimate outcome.
The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!