Farmers looking for a profitable cover crop may have a new option in an emerging venture being launched by Yield 10, a bioscience company actively recruiting farmers to grow camelina.
Darren Greenfield, senior director of seed operations for the company, said that the broadleaf crop holds significant potential to become “the next canola.”
“Camelina reminds me of where canola was 30 years ago,” Greenfield related. “It is only grown on the best land, there are some herbicide considerations, and we are on the verge of having significant over the top developments for the crop.”
Yield 10 is currently recruiting farmers who are willing to grow camelina under contract as the company continues market development and genetic improvements. Farmers are being offered a guaranteed minimum of $250 per acre on one-season contracts that do not require minimum acreage.
“We want to work closely with growers to give them a positive experience as we are doing these farm trials,” he said. “We would like to see this crop become another canola and we know that it does well in brown soil areas where there can be more dryness.”
For farmers, camelina offers numerous benefits, including providing a positive rotational or cover crop to winter wheat.
“If you move from winter wheat to camelina, you are switching from a monocot to a dicot, which has some advantages to suppressing weeds,” he said. “It is also not a host crop for insects and input costs are half of what they would be for wheat.”
Although it is a small seed, camelina does not need specialized equipment for harvesting or planting. Because camelina has so far been underdeveloped by seed companies, it also holds high potential for improved breeding strains that are more herbicide-tolerant.
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In a white paper put out by Yield 10 on camelina, the company noted the varied uses for the crop in the marketplace. With interest in biofuels continuing to rise, camelina could fill the gap in available crop sources.
“At the start of 2021, proposed and funded renewable diesel facilities totaled a capacity of over 5.3 billion gallons of biofuels per year with less than 10 percent of that capacity currently operational,” the paper noted. “In fact, soybean oil and canola commodity prices have already close to doubled in the past year, while the supply may tighten further in years to come.”
Camelina can also be used as a high protein animal feed and is already approved for use in poultry, beef, and fish farming.
In addition, Yield 10 has examined the crop’s potential for expanding the market in bioplastics.
“Yield 10 has a unique competitive advantage to commercialize crop bioplastic production, based on our over 30 years of producing and compounding PHA bioplastics,” the company noted. “Regulators are realizing that plastic recycling will remain largely ineffective at curbing production of new plastics and in turn plastic waste, as recycled plastics have limited uses and cannot be recycled endlessly, and they have begun adjusting the rules accordingly.”
Canada has banned the use of six types of single-use plastics by the end of 2022. China and India have similar plans to ban most single-use plastics.
Greenfield said with the varied markets available for camelina and its unique fit for much of the growing areas in Montana, the company hopes to work with producers willing to explore the possibilities.
“This is a great opportunity for farmers to incorporate a rotational crop that can be planted early in the spring due to its cold tolerance, harvested in early or mid-summer, and provide a profit to the farmer instead of a loss,” he said. “We are working to take away some of the challenges of marketing a new crop by purchasing directly from the farmer and getting it to the ready markets.”
For more information, contact Greenfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.