Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Agriculture

Committee Chair

Nicholas Heller


Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense), a member of the Brassicaceae or mustard family, is an emerging winter oilseed crop being developed as a cash cover crop in summer annual row cropping systems. This crop can be grown in the Corn Belt, sandwiched between corn and soybean crops without causing a yield or ecosystem penalty, and pennycress has the potential to produce biofuel. Although it can be used as a feedstock and to produce biodiesel, little is known about the best agronomic management practices. The objective of this study was to evaluate the growth and performance of pennycress in rotation systems when this crop followed four different annual crops: cereal rye, silage corn, grain corn, and soybean.This experiment was conducted at the Illinois State University Research Farm in Lexington, IL to evaluate the agronomic production of integrating pennycress into four potential cropping cycles in Illinois. For the crop rotation strategy, pennycress was drilled in the fall of 2022 following the harvest of four treatment crops. The summer cash crops were planted in April and May 2023 in the control plots and in early June 2023 after the pennycress harvest. Results demonstrated that the low residue field conditions led to significant growth of pennycress. Pennycress yield after cereal rye, soybean, and silage corn treatment was significantly higher than grain corn treated plots. Pennycress yielded 1350 kg ha-1, 1340 kg ha-1, and 1210 kg ha-1 from the cereal rye, soybean, and silage corn plots. The study indicated that large quantities of corn stover residues are a significant barrier to pennycress growth and establishment. As the seeds of pennycress are small, the substantial stack of residue left behind from the grain corn harvest hindered pennycress germination and emergence. The second objective of this study was to determine the financial implications of each cropping system treatment level. The experiment comprised eight rotation systems in total, four crop rotations under pennycress were compared to four crop rotations without pennycress. For the two-year income calculation, only the variable cost of input resources like seeds, fertilizers, machinery, and herbicides were subtracted from the total crop revenue in the rotation system. Fixed costs were excluded for the cropping systems as they represent expenses that remain constant regardless of the level of production. All the cropping systems including pennycress were more profitable compared to treatments with no pennycress except for the soybean-pennycress- grain corn rotation. The cereal rye-pennycress-soybean and soybean-fallow-grain corn rotation system had higher two-year profits than the grain corn-fallow-soybean crop rotation when variable costs were only considered for the profit estimation. The low yield of grain corn in the soybean-pennycress-grain corn rotation decreased the two-year income. Overall, the study shows that adopting a rotation of two cash crops with pennycress with proper management has the potential to generate more income compared to relying on winter fallow periods.

KEYWORDS: pennycress; winter oilseed; cash cover crop; cropping systems; biofuel; crop rotation; two-year profits


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