Researchers at Washington State University are taking part in a multi-institutional, nearly $13 million project on pennycress. Karen Sanguinet with WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences said it’s a common weed that isn’t suitable for human consumption, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless.
“We’re trying to look to see if pennycress could be a suitable cover crop and winter annual in cropping systems in the Pacific Northwest. It’s been shown to be very good for soil health and disease suppression, moisture conservation and it’s very flood and freeze intolerant.”
The crop, she noted, could also be used for biofuels or jet fuel as well. Sanguinet added it’s very similar to canola and with gene modification could be made even more so.
“One of the goals of the research is to look at adaptations and local environments so that we can pick lines and varieties and genetic variances that perform well in dryland cropping systems. It might not be suitable for the very low rainfall zones, so we’re really testing it more in the intermediate rainfall zones cause it does need a certain amount of moisture to germinate and emerge.”
Pennycress has been shown to be beneficial to growers in the Midwest, which could be a good sign for Northwest growers. WSU is working with eight other universities or research entities on the project.
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