Pennycress crop research continues at Western Illinois University
MACOMB (WGEM) - Farmers might be one step closer to getting a brand-new crop as research continues at Western Illinois University.
The winter-growing Pennycress crop is starting to sprout, and researchers took their first flowering measurements Monday.
Professor of plant breeding and genetics Dr. Win Phippen said the plants are progressing nicely, although the turbulent temperatures this winter have had an impact on some of the crop strains.
“We had several freeze thaw cycles that maybe knocked back a few varieties, but then we have other varieties that look absolutely beautiful out there. So, it’s just another part of the selection process... looking for varieties that are adapted to our conditions,” Phippen said.
The effect of the temperature swings was much larger on the spring/warmer weather crop varieties.
The winter growing strains require around a month’s worth of soil temperatures below 37 degrees. While the winter has been mild, there were enough cool days in December and January and as such, the winter strains are already starting to sprout and flower.
Phippen said the crops should be ready to harvest within a few months.
“We just took our first flowering note today, so the first variety is actually in bloom now. And I would expect them all to flower by Mid-April, and our intent is to start harvesting that field by the end of May,” Phippen said.
He said the end goal is to create a commercial crop that will be used for biofuels, primarily in the aviation industry.
The off-season growth would also provide another crop for farmers to use in their fields before the spring planting season.
The University will host a Pennycress Field Day that is open to the public on May 25 to show off the fully-grown plants.
In the meantime, Phippen and other researchers continue to crossbreed different strains from across the world to create the best commercial crop.
You can find out more about the project by visiting the IPREFER website or the IPReP website.
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