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 cash cover crop by 2021, 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.
When will advanced pennycress seed be readily available for public sale?
IPREFER’s commercial team member CoverCress Inc. was founded in 2013 in St. Louis and has been focused on developing pennycress into a new cash cover crop for the Midwest. From a broad germplasm collection to a high-tech breeding program supported by gene editing, CoverCress Inc. is now in its second breeding cycle, having planted its fifth multi location yield trials last September. In partnership with three universities, CoverCress Inc. changed pennycress grain composition in a way that this is now a new crop called CoverCress. This crop is seeded in the fall, during or shortly after corn harvest, being ready to harvest its high oil grain in May, before soybean planting. CoverCress can be ready for a commercial launch by 2021 or 2022, depending on how the next set of challenges develop. Working on farmer adoption, launch location and scale, and decisions on which oil path to follow (if fuel or food), will determine the launch strategy. Securing the next set of investments and overall customer commitment will determine launch and scalability of CoverCress. (Cris Handel, CoverCress, Inc.)
In what state or region will pennycress seeds will first be commercially planted?
The plan is to start in the southern half of Illinois, primarily due to the optimum maturity fit from the current breeding lines and to move north as the maturity from new lines gets adjusted to the northern environments.
Can pennycress/CoverCress become a noxious weed?
We don’t believe that will happen, primarily due to the three points below:
It is a winter annual and 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 reduced or eliminated.
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 pennycress?
Optimum grain yields have been achieved when seeding Pennycress at 4-8 lbs to the acre after corn 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 residue management practices. [Source: CoverCress, Feb. 2020]
What forms of nitrogen can I apply to pennycress?
The timing and rate of nitrogen application may be more critical versus the form used. However, liquid forms of nitrogen such as UAN solutions may put Pennycress at greater risk of leaf burn. A streamer bar may help, but more research still needs to be done on application methods and forms. [Source: CoverCress, Feb. 2020]
What is the optimum timing of nitrogen applications?
The timing and rate of nitrogen application may be more critical versus the form used. However, liquid forms of nitrogen such as UAN solutions may put Pennycress at greater risk of leaf burn. A streamer bar may help, but more research still needs to be done on application methods and forms. [Source: CoverCress, Feb 2020]
What/where are the markets for Covercress?
CoverCress Inc. will contract with growers to raise the CoverCress grain crop. Growers will know the delivery location of the grain and will know the delivery price they will receive for the delivered grain prior to planting CoverCress. This model is similar to sweet corn, peas and other crops. [Source: CoverCress, Feb. 2020]
Can I plant corn after harvest of pennycress instead of soybeans?
Yes. If growing corn after pennycress fits well with the rotation and the grower is willing to plant later planted corn this rotation is acceptable. [Source: CoverCress, Feb 2020]
What herbicide programs are effective for controlling pennycress in my cash crop following pennycress?
Pennycress is effectively controlled by glyphosate, and all broad leaf and non-selective pre and post emergence herbicide programs for corn and soybeans. Follow label directions for timing and rates. Do to this fact, there are currently no herbicide programs for weed control in growing pennycress, but systems are in development. [Source: CoverCress, Feb. 2020]
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, Feb. 2020]
What benefits does pennycress provide to the soil?
Good stand establishment of pennycress will provide overwinter soil cover and capture unused nitrogen following corn harvest. Pennycress may also provide some allelopathic weed suppression and will reduce or eliminate the need for a burndown herbicide application prior to planting the next crop. Surface soil tilth has also been observed by farmers who have grown fields of pennycress. [Source: CoverCress, Feb. 2020]
Why is pennycress better than Canola?
Pennycress has similar characteristics to canola for oil quality and feed stock quality. An advantage that pennycress may provide is an alternative crop option that requires minimal inputs for planting, fertilization and early harvest for a second crop. Pennycress is substantially earlier maturing than Canola, allowing a full season soybean crop to follow pennycress. It is not intended that pennycress will replace canola but rather be an additional option for growers for an oilseed and feedstock cash crop, without disrupting the corn and soy rotation. [Source: CoverCress, Feb. 2020]
Is pennycress an invasive weed?
Pennycress is not listed as an invasive weed on the federal or state invasive weed listings. [Source: CoverCress, Feb. 2020]
Will pennycress decrease soybean yields?
Current research has shown that when planting soybeans after pennycress there has been no significant reduction in yield. In a few cases soybean yields are better than the non-pennycress field. This may be as a result of improved soil tilth because of the continuous crop growing on the field. Future research will continue to define the impact of planting soybeans after pennycress. [Source: CoverCress, Feb. 2020]