IPREFER (Integrated Pennycress Research Enabling Farm and Energy Resilience) is a team of academic researchers, extension/outreach specialists, agricultural producers, and commercial interests working to optimize off-season pennycress oilseed production. IPREFER is led by Western Illinois University and funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). The project goal is to move pennycress towards a launch as a winter oilseed cash crop by 2023 with a goal of yielding up to an additional 2 billion gallons of oil annually towards the 25-year goal of 50 billion gallons set by USDA-NIFA in 2018. IPREFER focuses on optimizing agronomic protocols, breeding line development, assessment of environmental impacts, supply chain requirements, and community outreach. More information is available on-line at the IPREFER website.
When will CoverCress™ (advanced golden pennycress) seed be readily available?
IPREFER’s commercial team member CoverCress, Inc. (CCI) is an innovative startup company founded in 2013 in St. Louis and has been focused on developing pennycress into a new, climate-smart winter oilseed cash crop for the Midwest. From a broad germplasm collection to a high-tech breeding program supported by gene editing, CCI is now in its second breeding cycle, having planted its ninth multi-location yield trials last September. In partnership with three universities, CCI changed pennycress grain composition so that this is now a new crop called CoverCress™. This crop is seeded in the fall, during or shortly after corn or soybean harvest, being ready to harvest its high-oil grain in May, before corn or soybean planting, depending on operational rotations. CCI is preparing for a limited commercial demonstration for grain production in the fall of 2023 with a select group of farmers and will operate in a closed-loop system where the farmer will contract to produce grain exclusively for CCI. There will also be opportunities to plant demonstration plots to seed and observe the crop through a season without harvesting the crop but terminating like a cover crop in the spring. Please visit www.covercress.com for more information on how to participate in a CoverCress demonstration program.
In what state or region will CoverCress™ seeds first be commercially planted?
The plan is to work with farmers in the southern half of Illinois and selected areas of eastern Missouri, primarily due to the optimum maturity fit from the current commercial lines. Commercial availability will then move east to west along this initial geography and then move north as the maturity from new varieties is adapted for more northern environments.
Can pennycress become a noxious weed?
We don’t believe that will happen, primarily due to the three points below:
It is a winter annual; therefore, pennycress does not develop during the hot months when the main cash crops (and aggressive weeds) grow.
As for breeding a new crop, the natural weediness traits like shattering and dormancy are being reduced or eliminated as future varieties are developed through breeding and the utilization of gene editing technologies.
Pennycress is very sensitive to all herbicides tested (study conducted with a broad range of herbicides at the University of Missouri (Published Master’s thesis available with results. Contact anne.kinzel@iprefercap for information).
What is the seeding density of CoverCress™?
Optimum grain yields have been achieved when seeding CoverCress™ at 4-8 lbs. to the acre after corn or soybean harvest in lightly tilled soil. In research fields, lower seeding density has been successful as well. Seeding density recommendations will be based on fall corn and soybean residue management practices as well as the seeding method. [Source: CoverCress, Inc. Jan. 2023]
What forms of nitrogen can I apply to CoverCress™?
The timing and rate of nitrogen application may be more critical than the form used. However, liquid forms of nitrogen, such as UAN solutions, may put CoverCress at greater risk of leaf burn. More research is being conducted on application methods and forms. The CCI team will work closely with farmer participants to define the optimal nitrogen solution and application. [Source: CoverCress, Inc. Jan. 2023]
What is the optimum timing of nitrogen applications?
The current recommendation is to apply nitrogen when temperatures begin to rise (mid-spring), and the plant becomes metabolically active again. Having nitrogen available when the plants begin to bolt is important to maximize spring growth and potential yields. More research is being conducted on the effects of nitrogen rate and timing on CoverCress™ grain yields. [Source: CoverCress, Inc., Jan. 2023]
What/where are the markets for Covercress
CCI will contract with farmers to raise the CoverCress before the planting of the crop in the fall. Contracts will spell out the details around the pricing of grain, grain pick up at the field during harvest and other requirements from a production and handling perspective for the crop. This model is similar to seed production for other crops, as well as sweet corn, peas, and other crops. [Source: CoverCress, Inc., Jan. 2023]
Can I plant corn after CoverCress™ harvest instead of soybeans?
Yes. If growing corn after CoverCress fits well with the rotation and the farmer is willing to plant certain corn fields later than others, this rotation is acceptable. [Source: CoverCress, Inc. Jan. 2023]
What herbicide programs effectively control pennycress in my cash crop following CoverCress™?
Glyphosate and all broad leaf and non-selective pre- and post-emergence herbicide programs for corn and soybeans effectively control pennycress and CoverCress™. Follow label directions for timing and rates. Due to this fact, there are currently no herbicide programs for weed control in growing CoverCress, but systems are in development. [Source: CoverCress, Inc. Jan. 2023]
Is pennycress a legume?
No, pennycress is in the brassica family; it is related to other mustards such as canola, carinata, and camelina. Pennycress does not fix nitrogen. [Source: CoverCress, Inc., Jan. 2023]
What benefits does /CoverCress™ (golden pennycress) provide to the soil?
Good stand establishment of the crop will provide overwinter soil cover and capture unused nitrogen following corn harvest. CoverCress may also provide some allelopathic weed suppression and reduce or eliminate the need for a burndown herbicide application before planting the next crop. Surface soil tilth has also been observed by farmers who have grown fields of CoverCress. [Source: CoverCress, Inc. Jan. 2023]
Why is CoverCress™ (golden pennycress) better than Canola?
CoverCress™ has similar characteristics to canola for oil quality and feedstock quality. An advantage that CoverCress may provide is an alternative crop option that requires minimal inputs for planting, fertilization, and early harvest for a second crop. CoverCress is substantially earlier maturing than canola, allowing a full-season soybean crop to follow CoverCress. It is not intended that /CoverCress will replace canola but rather be an additional option for farmers as an oilseed and feedstock cash crop without disrupting the corn and soy rotation. [Source: CoverCress, Inc., Jan. 2023]
Is pennycress an invasive weed?
Wild pennycress is not listed as an invasive weed on federal or state invasive weed listings. CoverCress™ seed does not exhibit any weediness or long-term persistence in the soil.
Will CoverCress™ decrease soybean yields?
Current research has shown that there has been no significant yield reduction when planting soybeans after CoverCress compared to soybeans planted at a similar time. In a few cases, soybean yields were better than in the non- CoverCress field. This may result from improved soil tilth because of the continuous crop growing on the field. Future research will continue to define the impact of planting soybeans after CoverCress. [Source: CoverCress, Inc., Jan. 2023]