Crambe abyssinica

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Crambe abyssinica
Crambe abyssinica0.jpg
Scientific classification
C. abyssinica
Binomial name
Crambe abyssinica

Crambe abyssinica is an annual oilseed crop of the family Brassicaceae.[1] It is mainly cultivated due to the high levels of erucic acid that are contained in its seeds.[2] The crambe oil is used for industrial purposes and its side products can be partly used as animal feed.[3]


C. abyssinica has its origins in eastern Africa and was domesticated in the Mediterranean region.[4] It grows up to a height between 0.5 and 2m, depending on field conditions. Its cropping cycle is rather short, ranging from 90 to 100 days.[5] Usually, its straight stalk is moderately branched and its leaves are of an oval shape. The plant’s flowers are small and white, arranged in racemes [6][7] and have four free sepals, four free alternating petals, two shorter and four longer free stamens, what is typical for Brassicaceae.[8][9] Mostly, these flowers are self-pollinated, but some cases of cross-pollination have been observed.[8] Its indehiscent fruits enclose only one spherical seed that contains around 26% protein, 18% fibre and 35% oil.[3][6] This oil content is lower than what can be extracted from rapeseed and the oil is not edible.[10][3] The pericarp of the seed usually adheres to the seed even at harvest.[7]

History of agricultural use and cultivation[edit]

Crambe has not been in cultivation for a long time. It was probably cultivated for the first time in the 1930s in the former USSR.[11] Later the crop was tested in other regions of the USSR, in Sweden and in Poland, where crambe was grown on 25’000 ha after the second world war.[11] Research efforts in northern and eastern Europe were increased and the agronomical characteristics and industrial uses of crambe were intensively studied.[6] By successive selection within C. abyssinica, conventional breeding started in the 1950s in some European countries. Hereby improved strains were introduced to Canada and the United States. Further selection and crossing of different accession led to the release of new varieties in the 1970s. Through introgression of wild populations and mass selection two new cultivars were created in the 1980s which were promoted as high yielding source of erucic acid.[11][6][12] In the 1990s a breeding program was started in the Netherlands.[11] Nevertheless, after a period of great efforts to bring crambe into extended cultivation, interest in the crop in Europe has declined in recent years .[13]


With a germination temperature of 6 °C which is also equivalent to the basal growing temperature, C. abyssinica is a winter crop in southern Europe and subtropical areas whereas it is cultivated as spring crop in northern Europe and more continental areas.[13][5] The optimal growing temperature is approximately 15 °C. It tolerates annual average temperature between 5.7 and 16.2 °C and frost down to -6 °C.[14] Because of its ability to get along with only 350mm of precipitation, C. abyssinica is considered to be relatively drought tolerant.[13] Nevertheless, drought stress during the development stages of flowering and grain filling reduces productivity.[15] Cultivation is possible up to an annual precipitation of 1200mm. Crambe has modest demands regarding soil properties, it tolerates soil pH from 5.0 to 7.8. Low soil depth and a high stone and gravel content decrease drought tolerance.[5]

Seeds of many improved varieties are available on the market and are sown at a rate of approximately 120 seeds per m2 and at a depth of 5-15mm. Seed maturation is uniform and the 1000 seed weight varies between 6.0 and 7.5g.[13] Management procedures from sowing to harvesting can be conducted largely with the same machinery used for common cereals.[16] Yield levels vary widely between 1100-1600kgha-1 in Russia, 450-2500kgha-1 in the U.S. and 600-2400kgha-1 in Germany.[5][17]

C. abyssinica can be easily inserted in crop rotations with a requirement of 1600 growing degree-days.[13] Its rotation contingent should not exceed 25%. Because of similar soil requirements and increased soil borne pathogen pressure, cultivation directly after other Brassicaceae species should be avoided as well as cultivation after artificial grassland and fallows[17] due to an enriched soil seed bank of potential weeds and regarding the limited pre-emergence weed management methods.[13]


C. abyssinica is cultivated for a wide range of industrial purposes. The interest lies mainly in the high erucic acid content (55-60%) of its seed oil and makes the crop a competitive option to other oil plants as industrial rapeseed.[18] The composition of crambe oil gives this product several special traits, such as high smoke point, good wettability of different materials and high viscosity. In addition, its oil has a higher biodegradability than mineral oils.[3] Therefore, erucic acid derived compounds are used as additives in the plastic industry, high temperature hydraulic fluids, waxes, base for paints and coatings, lubricants and many other products. Furthermore, the extracted seed oil is used in pharmaceutical products and cosmetics.[3]

The crambe meal, which is a side product of industrial oil production, can be used as a protein supplement for animal feed. It contains approximately 46% proteins, which are of high nutritional quality.[19] Unfortunately, the crambe seed shred also contains toxic compounds as glucosinolates, tannins and inositol phosphate. The use as forage is therefore very limited. The incorporation rate of crambe by-products into animal feed should not be higher than 5% for growing-finishing pigs, 15% for dairy cows,[20] and 19% for sheep. It is not recommended to feed poultry.[21]

A possible new utilization for crambe are biofuels since the oil composition is suitable for processing.[22]

Current and future breeding efforts[edit]

Genetically, C. abyssinica has a set of 2n=90 chromosomes and is hexaploid.[6] However, it shows low genetic variation in important agronomic traits, e.g. erucic acid content.[23] Thus, improvement of cultivars through selection is difficult to achieve. A new source of variation could be found in the related taxon Crambe hispanica.[24] Recent efforts are found in the field of gene technology. To overcome the limited genetic variation, gene technology has been used in recent years to improve different important agronomic traits of crambe.[6] Site-directed mutagenesis could be another tool for further improvement of the crop. However, the genetic control of many agronomic traits are unknown, thus the potential for genetic improvement is limited at the moment.[6] Additionally further research aims to assess the potential of using the seed cake in protein-based plastic production and to find further uses for the whole plant.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A., Weiss, E. (2000). Oilseed crops (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Science. ISBN 9780632052592. OCLC 41711948.
  2. ^ Mandal, S.; Yadav, Sangita; Singh, Ranbir; Begum, Gulnaz; Suneja, Poonam; Singh, M. (2002). "Correlation studies on oil content and fatty acid profile of some Cruciferous species". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 49 (6): 551–556. doi:10.1023/a:1021210800414. ISSN 0925-9864.
  3. ^ a b c d e Lazzeri, Luca; Leoni, Onofrio; Conte, Lanfranco S.; Palmieri, Sandro (1994). "Some technological characteristics and potential uses of Crambe abyssinica products". Industrial Crops and Products. 3 (1–2): 103–112. doi:10.1016/0926-6690(94)90083-3.
  4. ^ Knights, Sue (2012). "Crambe: A North Dakotan case study" (PDF). Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Falasca, S.L.; Flores, N.; Lamas, M.C.; Carballo, S.M.; Anschau, A. (2010). "Crambe abyssinica: An almost unknown crop with a promissory future to produce biodiesel in Argentina". International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. 35 (11): 5808–5812. doi:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2010.02.095.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Zhu, Li-Hua (2016). "Crambe (Crambe abyssinica)". Industrial Oil Crops. pp. 195–205. doi:10.1016/b978-1-893997-98-1.00007-5. ISBN 9781893997981.
  7. ^ a b Fontana, F; Lazzeri, L; Malaguti, L; Galletti, S (1998). "Agronomic characterization of some Crambe abyssinica genotypes in a locality of the Po Valley". European Journal of Agronomy. 9 (2–3): 117–126. doi:10.1016/s1161-0301(98)00037-9.
  8. ^ a b Vollmann, J.; Ruckenbauer, P. (1991). "Estimation of Outcrossing Rates in Crambe (Crambe-Abyssinica Hochst Ex Re Fries) Using a Dominant Morphological Marker Gene". Die Bodenkultur. 42: 361–366.
  9. ^ Prina, Anibal (2000). "A taxonomic revision of Crambe, sect. Leptocrambe (Brassicaceae)". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 133 (4): 509–524. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2000.tb01593.x. ISSN 0024-4074.
  10. ^ Głąb, Bartosz; Furmanek, Tomasz; Miklaszewska, Magdalena; Banaś, Antoni; Królicka, Aleksandra (2013). "Lipids in hairy roots and non-Agrobacterium induced roots of Crambe abyssinica". Acta Physiologiae Plantarum. 35 (7): 2137–2145. doi:10.1007/s11738-013-1250-9. ISSN 0137-5881.
  11. ^ a b c d Mastebroek, H.D.; Wallenburg, S.C.; Soest, L.J.M. van (1994). "Variation for agronomic characteristics in crambe (Crambe abyssinica Hochst. ex Fries)". Industrial Crops and Products. 2 (2): 129–136. doi:10.1016/0926-6690(94)90094-9.
  12. ^ Campell, T.A.; Crock, J.; Williams, J.H. (1986). "Registration of 'Belann' and 'Belenzian' crambe". Crop Science. 26 (5): 1082–1083. doi:10.2135/cropsci1986.0011183x002600050056x.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Zanetti, Federica; Monti, Andrea; Berti, Marisol T. (2013). "Challenges and opportunities for new industrial oilseed crops in EU-27: A review". Industrial Crops and Products. 50: 580–595. doi:10.1016/j.indcrop.2013.08.030.
  14. ^ Duke, James A. (1983). Handbook of Energy Crops.
  15. ^ Dias; Secco; Santos, P.P.; D.; R.F (2015). "Soil compaction and drought stress on shoot and root growth in crambe (Crambe abyssinica)". Australian Journal of Crop Science. 9: 378–383.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Chaves, Lucia Helena Garofalo; Ledur, Eduardo Obadowski; Fernandes, Josely Dantas; de Brito Chaves, Iede (2015). "Development and production of crambe ('Crambe abyssinica') under different nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers". Australian Journal of Crop Science. 9 (9).
  17. ^ a b Makowski, N; Troegel, T (2001). Krambe - eine alternative Sommerölfrucht. Bd. 19. Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe. Münster: Landwirtschaftsverlag. ISBN 978-3784331300. OCLC 50976589.
  18. ^ Wang, Y.P; Tang, J.S; Chu, C.Q; Tian, J (2000). "A preliminary study on the introduction and cultivation of Crambe abyssinica in China, an oil plant for industrial uses". Industrial Crops and Products. 12 (1): 47–52. doi:10.1016/s0926-6690(99)00066-7.
  19. ^ Yong-Gang, Liu; Steg, A.; Hindle, V.A. (1993). "Crambe meal: a review of nutrition, toxicity and effect of treatments". Animal Feed Science and Technology. 41 (2): 133–147. doi:10.1016/0377-8401(93)90119-5.
  20. ^ Böhme, Hartwig; Kampf, Detlef; Lebzien, Peter; Flachowsky, Gerhard (2005). "Feeding value of crambe press cake and extracted meal as well as production responses of growing-finishing pigs and dairy cows fed these by-products". Archives of Animal Nutrition. 59 (2): 111–122. doi:10.1080/17450390512331387927. ISSN 1745-039X. PMID 16080305.
  21. ^ Heuzé V., Thiollet H., Tran G., Bastianelli D., Lebas F., 2018. Crambe (Crambe abyssinica). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO.
  22. ^ Vieira Silveira, Eduardo; Vilela, Lorrane Santos; Castro, Carlos Frederico de Souza; Lião, Luciano Morais; Neto, Francisco Fernandes Gambarra; Oliveira, Pedro Santos Mello de (2017). "Chromatographic characterization of the crambe (Crambe abyssinica Hochst) oil and modeling of some parameters for its conversion in biodiesel". Industrial Crops and Products. 97: 545–551. doi:10.1016/j.indcrop.2016.12.033.
  23. ^ Warwick, Suzanne I.; Gugel, Richard K. (2003). "Genetic variation in the Crambe abyssinica - C. hispanica - C. glabrata complex". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 50 (3): 291–305. doi:10.1007/s10722-004-2910-9 (inactive 2019-09-12).
  24. ^ Mulder, J. H.; Mastebroek, H. D. (1996). "Variation for agronomic characteristics in Crambe hispanica, a wild relative of Crambe abyssinica". Euphytica. 89 (2): 267–278. doi:10.1007/BF00034615. ISSN 0014-2336.

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