Camelina: A viable complementary crop
From the Manitoba Co-operator
Boasting a short growing season, minimal input costs and drought tolerance, camelina may be a decent complementary option for Manitoba producers.
“The interesting thing about camelina from an agronomic point of view is that it is a low-input crop. If you compare it to something like canola, where the seed cost can be $40 to $50 an acre, camelina seed cost is below $20 an acre,” said Jack Grushcow, founder and CEO of Smart Earth Seeds, which has been working with camelina for more than 10 years. “Producers have a lot of acres to plant and have to lay out a lot of cash every year. If they complement even 10 per cent of their regular production into camelina, it just reduces overall expense.”
A member of the Brassicaceae family, camelina is also known as false flax or German sesame and is similar to canola. It has excellent yield potential over an 85- to 100-day season and grows well in cool temperatures. Camelina requires less moisture than canola and is resistant to blackleg and some strains to downy mildew.
“Its season is 10 days shorter than canola, which means it can be grown farther north than a typical canola crop and you can combine it earlier, avoiding frost,” Grushcow said. “It is also resistant to many of the pests and diseases that bother canola like flea beetles and alternaria. We have had crops where canola has grown beside camelina and flea beetles pretty much wiped out the canola but hasn’t touched the camelina.”
“Camelina has one really important thing going for it and that is the omega-3 content, which is about 40 per cent of the total fatty acid. Compared to soybean oil, which is very minimal, less than five per cent — this is similar to canola as well,” said Stefanie Hixson, post-doctoral fellow with the department of chemistry and biology at Ryerson University.
There is a growing demand for products high in omega-3. According to the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids, daily intake of 500 mg of omega-3 is recommended for optimal cardiovascular health. A world population of seven billion would amount to an annual requirement of more than 1.25 million tonnes. Part of that demand could be supplied by meat with its omega-3 content boosted by camelina in the feed.