Researchers have found winter-grown camelina works very well as a forage resource for bees combing for nectar on sparse ground in early spring.

Scientists with the United States Department of Agriculture planted pennycress, canola and camelina to see how bees responded to their early spring blooms.

“All three cover crops had high insect visitation during their anthesis periods,” says a paper delivered to the combined International Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America. “Pennycress attracted mainly flies, while winter camelina and winter canola attracted both flies and bees. All three crops provide an important forage resource to pollinators during early spring when there is little else on the agricultural landscape that is blooming.”

The trial was part of an experiment in the use of winter oilseeds in the Northern Plains region of the United States. Traditionally the harsh winters, short growing season and potential for late wet springs restricted the use of risky cover crops in winter.

The three crops (winter camelina, winter canola, and pennycress) were evaluated for yield, double cropping potential, and pollinator use.

Several varieties of camelina were used in the USDA trials, including our Midas brand camelina, which is a spring cultivar.

“We found that winter camelina had the most consistent growth, highest winter survival, and highest yield production of the three crops,” the research team reported. “Double cropping corn or soybean after winter camelina also produced the highest combined yields of the three cover crops with either late planted corn or soybean.”

In Canada, producers have successfully grown a second crop such as winter wheat following spring seeding of Midas camelina which can be harvested after 85 days. The use of camelina as a winter cover crop is untested in Canada. But the USDA findings conform with recent European research that also found summer-planted camelina serves as a valuable forage resource for honey bees.

There have been numerous studies in the past few years in the USA and Europe that report highly successful double-cropping, multi-cropping and even relay-cropping and intercropping camelina with other crops such as peas, lentils, sorghum, wheat, sunflower, corn, soy, triticale, emmer and vetch.

For more on camelina agronomy, it’s food, feed and industrial uses, it’s oil profile, fatty acid content and to learn more about the overall benefits of this ancient and versatile oilseed crop, sign up to access our library here.