Using pennycress, camelina, and canola cash cover crops to provision pollinators

Carrie A. Eberle, Matthew D. Thom, Kristine T. Nemec, Frank Forcella, Jonathan G. Lundgren, Russell W. Gesch, Walter E. Riedell, Sharon K. Papiernik, Angela Wagner, Dean H. Peterson, James J. Eklund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


As pollinator decline continues, the need to provide high value forage for insects increases. Finding agricultural crops to diversify the landscape and provide forage is one way to improve pollinator health. Three winter industrial oilseed crops (pennycress, winter camelina, and winter canola) were grown in Morris, Minnesota, and Brookings, South Dakota, during the winters of 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. Each of the three crops has pollinator-friendly flowers and value as winter cover crops and cash seed crops. The crops were evaluated for pollinator use, nectar production, green cover, and yield. Pennycress, camelina, and canola flowers had high insect activity with maximum visitation rates of 67±11.5, 22±3.1, and 61±6.8 insects min-1. Cumulative nectar produced by pennycress, camelina, and canola was 13, 100, and 82kg of sugar ha-1 during the 2014 anthesis period, providing an important food resource to pollinators during early spring when there is little else on the agricultural landscape that is blooming. Green cover in early spring ranged from 0 to 60% amongst the three crops, with camelina providing >25% green cover across all four site-years. Maximum seed yields were 1.1±0.04, 1.4±0.05, and 1.2±0.19Mgha-1 for pennycress, camelina, and canola, respectively, which are economically viable harvests. Of the three crops, winter camelina provided the highest combined agroecosystem value through pollinator resources, green cover, and seed yields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-25
Number of pages6
JournalIndustrial Crops and Products
StatePublished - Nov 30 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Dave Schneider and Chris Nelson for their work in managing the SD field site. We thank Janet Fergen, Angela Wagner, Ryan Bell, Nicole Berg, Marissa Layman, Jacob Pecenka, and Cally Strobel for assistance with insect surveys. We would like to thank Chuck Hennen and Scott Larson for their input and management of the MN field sites. This work was supported through the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture award 2012-67009-20272, as well as a USDA-ARS post-doctoral research award. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Brassica napus L.
  • Camelina sativa
  • Cover crops
  • Oil seeds
  • Pollinators
  • Thlaspi arvense


Dive into the research topics of 'Using pennycress, camelina, and canola cash cover crops to provision pollinators'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this