Camelina [Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz] is an annual or winter annual in the Brassicacea, or mustard family. Camelina originated in Northern Europe but is now distributed across most of the United States and Canada.
Camelina has been developed as a crop due to its high oil content, 30-40%, and unique oil properties. The oil is suitable for a variety of food uses and for biodiesel production. The oil is composed of six percent saturated fatty acids, 30 percent monosaturated fatty acids and 64 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega -3 fatty acids comprise 39% (alpha linolenic acid [ALA], 38 %) of the oil. The ALA in camelina oil, unlike that in flaxseed oil with similar high ALA content, has a much longer shelf life and can be stored without special conditions, due to high levels of gamma-tocopherol (Vitamin E). Oil content varies with cultivar and seasonal growing conditions.
In North America camelina is grown in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, eastern Washington and Oregon, and Canada. Internationally it is grown in Slovenia, Ukraine, China, Finland, Germany and Austria.
Camelina oil can be used as an edible oil and for biodiesel. Research has also been done to develop the oil for jet fuel and other high-value chemicals.
For food use, camelina oil can be sold as pure oil as a food supplement. The oil has a desirable 2:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, so it has been promoted for health benefits when consumed raw. Camelina oil has not yet received FDA GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status so is not able, at this time, to be used commercially in multi-ingredient processed foods. Its fatty acid profile also makes it adaptable to high temperatures for frying, with a high smoke point of 475 degrees F, though recommendations are not to use batches of camelina oil for repeated frying.
Improved cultivars of camelina have been developed in Europe. In the U.S., Some improved cultivars have been release by Montana State University and High Plains Crop Development, LLC in Wyoming.
Camelina seed meal is similar to soybean meal, with 35-40 percent protein, 6-12 percent oil, 6-7 percent ash and 41 percent neutral detergent fiber. The meal, however, contains anti-nutritive compounds including glucosinolates, phytic acid, condensed tannins, and sinapine, though at varying levels with different geneticlines of camelina. Plant breeders believe that it is possible to select for low glucosinolate lines of camelina with traditional plant breeding, as was done with rapeseed in the 1970s and 1980s, but need to do so without raising the levels of sinapine.
Camelina meal has received FDA GRAS status, so may be used as a feed ingredient in both ruminant (beef cattle and goats) and monogastric (chicken and swine) feed rations. It is pending approval as an ingredient in dairy rations.
Camelina, in the future, may also play a role in farmed fish production. Transgenic Camelina sativa expressing algal genes was used to produce an oil containing n-3 LC-PUFA to replace fish oil in salmon feeds. The oil had no detrimental effects on fish performance, metabolic responses or the nutritional quality of the fillets of the farmed fish.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations does not track international camelina production or marketing statistics.
Camelina is a short-season crop that takes only 85 to 100 days to mature and requires as little as 11 inches of rain to produce a crop. Oilseed yields, however, increase with increased rainfall. It has typically been grown in the northwestern U.S in rotation with other short-season crops, such as wheat, barley, peas and lentils. Montana State University (MSU) recommends growing camelina in a three- or four-year crop rotation.
Camelina germinates at soil temperatures of 36-38o F, so can be planted early in the spring, similar to planting times for oats, barley and spring wheat. Camelina seeds are dense and small at 345,000 to 500,000 seeds per pound and can be broadcast or drilled. For best, consistent stands, drilling as early as possible in the spring will give better results. The suggested seeding rate per acre varies slightly among states, but averages 5 lbs/A.
As with many annual crops, earlier planting results in higher seed yields. Planting date studies in Montana recorded grain yield decrease of 25% of potential (about 2,000 lbs/A) when planting was delayed from March 15 to April 15.
Camelina can be produced on marginal soils. Yields vary depending on soils and rainfall. Based on MSU research, camelina will average 1,800 to 2,200 pounds per acre under 16- to 18-inch rainfalls. In other dryland research trials by MSU, camelina yields averaged 1,000 to 1,700 per acre. Yields drop with less rainfall and increase when using irrigation. Yields on commercial farms have been approximately 800 to 1,000 lb/A.
Camilina is not a highly competitive crop and performs best in fields with low weed pressure. Roundup may be applied preplant. Poast®, for post-emergent grass control, is the only herbicide labeled for use on an emerged camelina crop. Camelina has recently undergone evaluation for tolerance to several preemergence herbicides.
Harvest camelina when the pods turn yellow-brown. Camelina is less prone to pod shattering than canola, so it can be direct combined. Optimum seed moisture content for storage in 8.5 %
Camelina as a cover crop
Winter annual camelina is also being researched as a fall-seeded cover crop within corn-soybean rotations in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. Winter hardiness has been good in all three states.
Management of camelina for oilseed production is very similar to that for spring-planted small grains. Equipment needed, include a no-till drill or broadcast seeder, a cultipacker or similar implement to incorporate seed if broadcast, combine harvester and wagons for transportation, is similar to the needs other small-seeded grain or oilseed crops. No insecticides or fungicides are recommended for production. Projected nutrient removal for a crop is 30 lbs/A nitrogen, 10 lbs/ A phosphorus, and 0 lbs/A potassium and 20 lbs/A sulfer. These rates, particularly for potassium and sulfer, will vary across the U.S. based on soil types and background soil test levels.
Camelina for Biofuel Production
Camelina sativa in poultry diets: opportunities and challenges. Chapter 17 in, Biofuel co-products as livestock feed----opportunities and challenges.
ARS Researching Camelina as a New Biofuel Crop, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, 2010.
Antinutritive Compounds in Twelve Camelina sativa Genotypes. 2012. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 3, 1408-1412.
Camelina: A Promising Low-Input Oilseed, Purdue University.
Camelina Plant Guide, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA, 2011.
Camelina Production in Montana, Montana State University, 2008 - Research on all fronts, from how to best grow camelina to developing end use products of the oil and meal of this unique seed, is currently underway in Montana.
Camelina Variety Trial Results, North Dakota State University, 2010.
Montana Camelina Production, National Ag Statistics Service, USDA, 2011.
National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials, National Non-Food Crops Centre, United Kingdom (UK) - Established by the UK government, this center provides expertise in biorenewable markets and technologies.
New Oil Fields, Industrial Oil Crops for the Northern Corn Belt are on the Horizon, Corn and Soybean Digest, 2010.
Sustainable Oils - Camelina: A joint venture between ag biosceince company Targeted Growth Inc. and Houston-based biofuel producer Green Earth Fuels LLC.
Camelina: Effects of Planting Date and Method on Stand Establishment and Seed Yield, 2014
Links checked October 2021.