A Renewable Source of Jetfuel from Alternative Oilseeds? Predicting Crop Response under Environmental Variability

Nathaniel K. Newlands, Lawrence Townley-Smith, and Tracy A. Porcelli


Agriculture, Statistical modeling, Oilseed crops, Renewable energy


We present a statistical assessment and application of a nonlinear crop growth model to assess the potential of using Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata L.) and Camelina (Camelina sativa) as renewable sources of jet fuel. We apply a nonlinear model that links key environmental variables that mediate crop response: temperature, precipitation, nutrient concentrations, and soil-water availability. Our study uses recent plant breeding and multi-site agricultural plot data collected across Canada. We determine a minimum number of days required to mature for Ethiopian mustard was 82-121 days (2006-07) - for some sites up to 20 days longer than previously reported in the literature. Also, yield variance of 18-25% CV is much less than 46-47% reported based on previous more limited data. Oil content ranges for these alternative oilseed crops are also significantly higher than previously determined. For Ethiopian mustard, values determined here are much closer to estimates for napus canola of 820-1780 kg/ha across the Canadian Prairies. Based on measured yield, seed and oil content, our results indicate that Ethiopian mustard and Camelina are suitable alternative biodiesel feedstock crops. Our analysis provides quantitative information for designing and evaluating crop adaptation strategies within major production areas of Canada.

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