Maximizing Camelina’s Potential as an Overwintering Cover Crop

The Illinois Cover Crop On-Farm Network (ICCON) continued their four-part winter series exploring new and emerging cover crops in January with a presentation on Camelina. 

This month, Dr. Joel Gruver, Associate Professor of Soil Science and Sustainable Ag at Western Illinois University, joined ICCON’s monthly cover crop call to share his experience growing Camelina as a cover crop on WIU’s Allison Organic Research and Demonstration Farm. 

Camelina is an ancient crop originally from Europe. It has gained recent interest due to its high Omega 3 fatty acids and high Vitamin E content, making it a viable oil crop. Camelina has shatter resistant pods with many seeds inside, which developed naturally without any breeding. Camelina has tiny seeds, so the suggested seeding rate 8 lbs / acre means millions of seeds are planted.  When used in a mix, the recommended seeding rate is 2 to 3 lbs / acre.     

Close up photo shows Camelina’s shatter resistant seed pods.


Dr. Gruver shared planting considerations for farmers who may be interested in growing Camelina. During his presentation, he emphasized the importance of avoiding planting too early because Camelina can grow more than desired and bolt in the fall which isn’t preferred. One of Camelina’s greatest strengths, according to Dr. Gruver, is that it can be planted later than any other brassica. In Dr. Gruver’s experience, planting between October and November in Illinois is ideal.  


Establishment of Camelina at any time requires moisture, as the seed can easily dry out without it. Camelina should be seeded shallowly, and Dr. Gruver shared that it will establish well with a broadcast application, if followed by rain. If drilled, there is a good chance that the seed will be planted too deeply and there won’t be a solid stand.  

Winter stand of Camelina.


Dr. Gruver also shared several resources by other researchers and farmers who have experimented with Camelina on their fields. One leader in Camelina research is Dr. Marisol Berti, Professor of Plant Sciences at North Dakota State University. Additionally, University of Minnesota, Practical Farmers of Iowa, and Heartland Co-op in Iowa have published fact sheets and research studies on using Camelina after corn and after soy 

To get in touch with Dr. Gruver or to learn more about his research, visit his WIU webpage. ICCON’s winter series focusing on new and emerging cover crops will continue next month on February 8th at 9am CT. 

During the final ICCON call of the series on February 8, attendees will have a chance to hear from Dr. Kim Cassida, forage and cover crop specialist at Michigan State University. Dr. Cassida’s research has focused on comparing different varieties of cover crops and their performance across different environments. She will discuss how berseem clover compares to other annual clovers and other cover crops in factors such as speed of ground cover, biomass production, and termination dates based on research trials conducted at Michigan State’s Kellogg Biological Station. 

ICCON’s New and Emerging Cover Crops Winter Series was produced with support from the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council. To learn more about NREC’s work and their upcoming Annual Meeting, visit their website at   

If you are interested in joining the Illinois Cover Crop On-Farm Network to learn about new research and hear from cover crop specialists across the Midwest, you can register for our monthly calls or join our google group by sending an email to 

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ISAP Coordinator