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Camelina - a sustainable biofuel miracle plant.

Byline: Shakeel Ahmad

CAMELINA IS a flowering plant of the Brassicaceae family. Botanical name of camelina is Camelina sativa L. It is known with many other names depending upon the area and language. Camelina is an English name of Camelina sativa (scientific name). It is also well known in English with many other names like gold-of-pleasure, false flax, sometimes wild flax, linseed dodder, German sesame, and Siberian oilseed. It is originated from Europe and Central Asian areas. Europe and North America grow this plant commercially for oil purpose.

This plant is cultivated as oilseed crop in those areas of the world. It has been traditionally cultivated as an oilseed crop for the production of vegetable oil and animal feed since long time. It has also been shown by ample archeological evidence that it was cultivated in Europe for at least 3,000 years. From its historical study it has been revealed that it was being grown in different countries in different eras. It was being cultivated as a monoculture around the Rhine River in 600 BC and at that time a prevailing thought was that it spreads mainly by co-existing as a weed with flax monocultures. After that until 1940s it remained an important oil crop of the eastern and central Europe. Presently, it is being cultivated in some areas of the Eastern and Central Europe for the purpose of seed oil.

It was being ignored by the people due to lack of awareness and knowledge in every era. It was imported to North America accidently as a weed with flax seed. At that time, when it was brought to America, it was treated just as a weed and had no commercial importance. But at present, when its importance has been realized and its uses have been shown off to human beings, it has become an important oilseed crop and cultivated commercially in different areas of the world including America, Asia and Europe from where it was originated.

In early study, it has been observed that there is no breeding work on this crop, as it was not much popular among the people of the world, but now it has got much fame among the growers so breeders are trying to explore its breeding potential as much as it has and in this context many breeders and researchers have done a lot of work over it during the last decade.

Now-a-days it has been distributed almost in all over the world. It is being found in almost all regions of the Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australia, and New Zealand, either it (Camelina) is present in wild form or in cultivated form but it is present.

Camelina is a short-season crop (85-100 days) and best growing climate for this crop is particularly cold semiarid climate zone. It germinates at low temperatures and is very frost tolerant. It is relatively easy to grow, needing fewer inputs than most of the other crops. It grows on marginal land and responds well under drought stress conditions. Thus, it is better suited to low rainfall regions on marginal agricultural land than other oilseed crops.

How we can identify this plant in field?

Some key features and important characteristics of this plant have been discussed below. It is a summer or winter annual plant (It is a botanical term and it refers to a plant which completes its life cycle, from germination to the production of seed, within one year and then dies) with branching system and branches become woody at maturity. Plant height ranges from 30 cm to 120 cm. The leaves pattern is alternate (leaf attachments are singular at nodes, and leaves alternate direction, to a greater or lesser degree, along the stem) on the stem, lanceolate (a type of leaf shape which means that Lance-shaped, Long, wider in the middle), with a length ranges from 2 cm to 8 cm and the width ranges from 2 mm to 10 mm. So from the dimension, given in previous line, we can easily guess the shape of the leaf (It will be like lanceolate). Leaves and stems may be partially hairy. Its abundant, four-petaled flowers (Petals are modified leaves that surround the reproductive parts of flowers.) are pale yellow in colour.

Seeds mature in seed pods and have a characteristic orange colour. Seeds were measured to test their sizes; they were ranging from 1.5 cm to 2 cm in length. Variation was observed in seeds weight when they were weighed. Usually the 1,000 seed weight ranges from 0.8 to 2.0 g.

Camelina has magical properties and it is supposed to be a biofuel miracle plant. In this (Part-1) article I tried at my best level to cover all introductory aspects of camelina oilseed crop. What are the uses and advantages of camelina plant? What kind of genetics it has? What is agronomy of camelina? And what are the names of its popular strains/varieties/cultivars? All of these questions will be addressed in the next (Part-2) article.

(to be continued)
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Author:Ahmad, Shakeel
Publication:Technology Times
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Mar 9, 2014
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