Camelina Field Day with Smart Earth Seeds

On August 21, 2020, Canada Golden Products and Smart Earth Camelina Corp visited two of Saskatchewan grower Chris Thorson’s camelina fields as well as his farmyard approximately ½ hour north of Chamberlain, SK.

Smart Earth’s Carlene Sarvas, Camelina Specialist, and Mike Cey, GM, were wonderful sources of agronomic knowledge about the plant during this trip and, along with Chris, explained many of the elements of growing camelina in Saskatchewan.

The two fields were at varying stages of development, due to the timing of the plantings, with the first field visited having been replanted in late June due to emergence issues with the seed. The early stages of development, though, would most likely not be a problem during harvesting, Carlene explained, due to camelina’s short growing season of 85-100 days.

This green stage crop also gave us a chance to look at the green seed pods and see them as them look before they mature into the golden seeds used for crushing.

The next field was the mature, late stage camelina crop with the golden plants most associate with harvest time. This field was ready for a desiccant to be sprayed to dry down the crop and allow for easy feeding into a combine. Pod shattering is not an issue with the Camelina plant, unlike the popular oilseed canola, allowing for it to be straight cut instead of swathed.

Carlene explained some of the advances being made with a new variety of camelina currently being breed by Smart Earth, allowing for a wider variety of herbicide applications becoming available with this resistant variety. Smart Earth is seeking governmental approval for this new variety, which Carlene is optimistic will occur within the near future.

One big advantage for growing camelina is its resistance to common pests such as flea beetles and to common disease such as blackleg. This allows the grower to go without insecticide and fungicide treatments so common in other crops. Two areas of concern, though are downy mildew and sclerotinia which may become agronomic issues in the future.

During our tour of Chris’ farmyard, he allowed us to examine the Valmar spreader and harrower that he uses to plant his camelina field. The main advantage of using these tools to plant his camelina is its need to be planted at a very shallow rate in comparison to other crops which he plants with his conventional seeder. The camelina seed is very small and has a weaker emergence than other crops and thus needs to be planted from ¼ inch to ½ inch depth. This also causes issues with germination, if there is a lower moisture level in the top surface of the soil and may also cause blowing issues if there are high winds during the spring.

We also examined a preliminary cleaning tool that he uses before transporting his Camelina to an elevator which required a longer hauling time. Due to the smaller, lighter nature of the camelina seed, harvesting often requires more chaff to be taken with the crop, so the seeds are not blown out of the back of the combine.

This preliminary cleaning allows him to transport more of the seed and less of the chaff, saving time and money. Chris is also working on a centrifuge tool that will use gravity to separate the seeds from the chaff as another cleaning process.

This year, Smart Earth’s GM Mike Cey estimates that 6400 acres of Camelina have been planted in Saskatchewan.  Due to many factors, such as its short growing season and many positive agronomic attributes, many growers see camelina as a good alternative oil seed crop that makes economic sense for their farm.

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