Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) is a high-yielding oilseed crop that can be grown as an ecosystem benefiting winter cash cover crop throughout the U.S. Corn Belt. Pennycress is unique among cover crops in that it can generate income, which can incentivize farmer adoption. Integration of pennycress into existing corn-soybean rotations can extend the growing season on established croplands and avoid food crop displacement. Pennycress could yield up to 2 billion gallons of oil annually towards the USDA-NIDA 25-year goal of 50 billion gallons of biofuels.
Our integrated USDA-NIFA CAP project focuses on optimizing off-season pennycress production and overcoming supply chain bottlenecks. Specifically, our research involves improving pennycress germplasm and agronomic management, ecosystem services characterization, and supply chain establishment with an emphasis on post-harvest seed management. We also develop education and extension networks that will enhance pennycress adoption and profitability by providing science-based guidance to train farmers, workers, and scientists, while highlighting new career opportunities.
Since we recognize the need for regionally-adjusted agronomic practices, we emphasize working directly with producers and industry. This relationship will integrate research-based knowledge to improve on-farm economics and highlight environmental benefits. The integration of pennycress as a cash cover crop can positively impact production agriculture’s profitability and decrease soil erosion and nutrient runoff. Pennycress commercialization can protect water systems, support pollinator health and biodiversity, suppress spring weeds, increase energy security by diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio, and contribute to rural communities’ economic health.