Volume 3, Issue 6
Published: July 27, 2009
Cleared for take off
The old adage tells us that sometimes before moving forward, you have to take a step back to appreciate what has come before. Camelina, which has gone under several aliases including false fl ax and gold of pleasure, is an ancient Mediterranean crop that had been grown for various uses throughout history. In antiquity it was cultivated from Rome to southeastern Europe and the southwestern Asian steppes, while during the 19th century it was cultivated in eastern Europe to produce vegetable oil and animal feed prior to the 1940s. In the post-war period however, the growing popularity of more productive crops such as wheat and canola, saw camelina fall out of favour with the view that its high content of unsaturated fatty acids (90%) made it harder and more expensive to hydrogenate. Today, the future of camelina lies on the semiarid Great Plains of western US. With the combination of camelina’s exclusivity as a biofuel feedstock, instead of competing as a food source, and the growing trend of energy crops, its recent introduction to the US has enticed several companies, including BlueSun, Sustainable Oils and Great Plains Oils, to take the plunge by investing in the future of the little seed that can. Colonel Camelina Camelina may look like a weed but it is exactly this characteristic that is the source of its potential. The beauty of camelina that sets it apart from its mustard family is its adaptability allowing it to grow on marginal land without the need for in-season maintenance from famers. The crop’s low requirements for tillage and weed control allows it to be produced at a lower cost than traditional oil crops. Camelina is also remarkably droughtresistant and can withstand cold harsh temperatures.
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