Scientists come to Macomb for Pennycress research

Scientists from all over the country came to Macomb for the annual Pennycress field day to learn about the research progress of this year's crop.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 5:12 PM CDT
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MACOMB (WGEM) - The annual Pennycress Field Day showcased hundreds of Pennycress species to scientists, farmers, and organizations from across the country.

Researchers were given a tour of the plots to see which species thrived, and which species did not.

Western Illinois University School of Agriculture director Andy Baker said this year’s research is a big step toward the development of a marketable crop.

“We have transformed the field Pennycress plant into Covercress which is a little bit different. Field Pennycress is a black seed and we have now been able to convert and used our breeding program to make it a golden color, so it’s a lot more palatable for livestock,” said Baker.

In addition to the seed color, he said researchers have also been able to modify seed size and overall yield.

Other factors were also measured including freeze resistance.

Baker said it’s fascinating to be able to see the development of a new agronomical crop in real time in West Central Illinois.

The end goal is to alter the plant and get a perfect species to be grown as a cover crop for producers, while also producing more feed for livestock and eventually biofuel.

“We’ve done a variety of things so that producers can easily handle this and also be able to use for the livestock industry. So, we’ve made some great strides over the last four years and to see this come to fruition is absolutely exciting,” said Baker.

The research plots will be harvested in the coming weeks, with further analysis done on the yield and performance of each species.

The program runs on a five-year grant, with the fifth year coming up starting next fall.

Baker said he hopes to see even more acres of Pennycress planted next autumn.

You can find out more about the Pennycress research project here.


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