Nov 2, 2023

Winter Camelina—A Golden Opportunity for Global Food Security

Winter Camelina A Golden Opportunity for Global Food Security cover image

Global food security is one of the main drivers behind the work we do with Camelina. And improving the sustainability of food production is one of the reasons why we started looking at winter Camelina as a cover crop for North America that can be used on a commercial scale.

Winter Camelina has the potential to produce value in both oils and protein with a little help from science. And by unlocking the full potential of Camelina as a vegetable source for oil and protein with increased nutritional value, we have the potential to address global food security issues such as malnutrition and food scarcity.

We began testing our best-performing winter lines at sites in the US and Canada to generate additional crop performance data in different geographic locations.

To harness the power of winter Camelina, we developed wild-type and double haploid winter Camelina lines using our in-house capabilities. Then, it was time to test them. We planted our first winter Camelina varieties in August and September of 2019 in Saskatchewan, Canada. In the summer of 2020, we announced the successful evaluation of emergence and establishment in field tests of winter Camelina varieties.

Winter field trial

The field test site in Saskatchewan was covered in snow from late October 2019 to mid-April 2020, so we saw optimal spring emergence in May 2020. Considering the extreme winter conditions in our field test site in Canada, the double haploid winter Camelina varieties that we developed performed very well.

And that’s because these double haploid Camelina lines have more uniform, stable performance, which is an important attribute for growers of commercial crops. The emergence of the seedlings after planting was in the range of 70-80% and 90-100%, respectively, depending on the date of planting.

Next Steps

The success of our winter field trial enabled us to begin additional field testing in the winter of 2020-2021. Having previously evaluated the Camelina sativa winter varieties, we continued to evaluate the lines in different geographies as well as to scale up seed production for multi-acre seed production. These activities are intended to support our commercial efforts to leverage our technology in the potential high-growth cash cover crop market.

Cover crops are becoming increasingly important to improve the sustainability of food production by improving soil health, reducing unwanted leaching of nutrients into the water supply, and enhancing economic returns for farmers who can open up large areas for new crops to produce novel products.

As such, we were highly motivated to continue our studies and determine the seed and oil yield potential of winter Camelina varieties in order to identify which plant lines we should scale up for larger studies.

Present and future considerations

In addition to our 2020 field tests of the winter Camelina lines, last year was significant for us. We entered into an agreement with Rothamsted Research to leverage advanced technology for developing improved Camelina lines for the production of omega-3 oils and we also achieved the proof-of-concept for producing PHA bioplastic in field-grown Camelina plants.

Now, in 2021, we have placed increased emphasis on developing our elite winter and spring Camelina varieties by incorporating key agronomic or input traits such as herbicide tolerance and disease resistance in an effort to make large acreage adoption of Camelina possible.

In a recent interview, our CEO, Oliver Peoples, commented that using winter Camelina may be an ideal solution to close the gap between US vegetable oil supply and demand. As a cover crop, winter Camelina provides an opportunity to create products for the renewable fuel space while also improving the sustainability of oil and protein meal for food production through better soil health.

Unlocking traits such as herbicide tolerance and disease resistance in winter Camelina would take the value of this crop to a new level and form a solid agronomic and commercial foundation for our omega-3 and PHA gene traits.

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