WIU celebrates crop research on third pennycress field day
MACOMB (WGEM) - Despite the off and on rain, dozens came out Thursday morning to the third pennycress field day to celebrate the ongoing cover crop research at WIU.
The day began with WIU President Guiyou Huang cutting a ribbon officially opening a brand new agronomy shed for the Integrated Pennycress Research Enabling Farm and Energy Resilience Project (IPREFER).
The university has been researching Pennycress since 2009, with professor and Alternative Crops Research Program Director Win Phippen leading the charge.
This research got a boost in 2019 with a five-year, $10 million bio-fuel research grant.
Phippen said they have noticed some challenges with introducing a brand new crop to Illinois farmers, but they are excited for its potential.
“The producers are actually very excited about growing something new, especially a crop that can provide some ecosystem services. And growing it in the off season, without impacting the current production cycle, which is corn or soybeans,” Phippen said.
He said the cover crop is unique in the fact that it is a revenue-generating cover crop.
Phippen said the crop is resistant to the effects of winter weather, and has been harvested as far north as Alaska.
He said more research is being completed at WIU fields on different strains and genetics of pennycress that would make it more tolerant of warmer temperatures so it can be grown farther South.
Phippen mentioned that more than 5,000 acres are being harvested this Spring, and they hope to work with producers on larger scale grow outs to see how the crop performs across different fields in the coming years.
Other WIU officials were also present at the ceremony and were excited about the opportunities that pennycress could bring, including school of agriculture director Andy Baker.
Baker said there are numerous benefits of pennycress that present a big opportunity for local farmers.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to do a lot of environmental things in their production and operation by having a cover crop. Being able to produce three crops in two years so, if the excitement is not there we’re going to generate some excitement,” said Baker.
For more information on the project, click here.
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