Dr. Chengci Chen, MSU-EARC professor of agronomy and superintendent recently presented, in Sidney, the results of a study of camelina and canola as potential rotational crops for dryland and irrigated production systems. The study is being conducted at Montana State University Eastern Agricultural Research Center’s (EARC).

“Demands for oilseeds has increased in recent years; canola and camelina could be profitable alternatives to sugar beets, especially because the demand for camelina for biofuel production is surging,” said Chen, adding that several companies are seeking millions of acres for camelina production.

Camelina is a new crop to this area and both canola and camelina are suitable in rotation with crops such as wheat and barley and could potentially make a more profitable and resilient crop system. They are suitable for dryland and irrigated farming, though they have a higher yield under irrigation but plant disease is a concern. Research at EARC also aims at selecting cultivars that can produce higher yield with less input, especially nitrogen input. 

Chen’s research will offer vital information including cultivar adaptability and yield potential and agronomic management strategies for these alternative crops including fertility needs, planting time and rate, irrigation management, weed control, harvesting method, and disease management.

“Agriculture is very important to our community. With sugar beets out, and a lot of uncertainty, we want to find alternatives for growers that are profitable,” Chen explained. He went on to add of their research, “We don’t want farmers to fail on a large scale. Our research in small plot-scale allows us to figure out what cultivators can and what can’t grow in this environment and the agronomic strategies for these new crops before farmers take these crops to their farms for large-scale production.”

Dr. Chen welcomes farmers and the general public to attend the field to learn the work the scientists are doing at EARC and see the crop performance. Dr. Chen also wants to thank local businesses for sponsoring the luncheon at the field day.


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