US (IL): Pennycress crop research continues at Western Illinois University

Farmers might be one step closer to getting a brand-new crop as research continues at Western Illinois University. The winter-growing Pennycress crop is starting to sprout, and researchers took their first flowering measurements Monday.

Professor of plant breeding and genetics Dr. Win Phippen said the plants are progressing nicely, although the turbulent temperatures this winter have had an impact on some of the crop strains.

“We had several freeze-thaw cycles that maybe knocked back a few varieties, but then we have other varieties that look absolutely beautiful out there. So, it’s just another part of the selection process... looking for varieties that are adapted to our conditions,” Phippen said.

The effect of the temperature swings was much larger on the spring/warmer weather crop varieties. The winter-growing strains require around a month’s worth of soil temperatures below 37 degrees. While the winter has been mild, there were enough cool days in December and January, and as such, the winter strains are already starting to sprout and flower. Phippen said the crops should be ready to harvest within a few months.


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