Alternative Oilseeds

Safflower blossom in a field.

Canola makes up the largest percentage of oilseed crops in the inland Pacific Northwest. However, sunflowers, flax, camelina, and safflower have all been shown to grow well in this region. While these oilseeds can be successfully grown in inland Pacific Northwest, the markets and supply chains are not necessarily developed. Prior to planting alternative oilseeds, it is important to ensure that there is a market and a supply chain in place for the final product at harvest.

Visit the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences site to see all the CSS Field Day Abstracts.


Camelina (Camelina sativa L.) is an ancient crop found in northern Europe, which was largely displaced by the major oilseed crops in the latter half of the last century. It is also known as false flax, or gold-of-pleasure. Camelina is a member of the mustard family, like canola. In recent years, there has been increased interest in camelina as an oilseed crop for biofuels in dryland agricultural regions of the western U.S. and the Great Plains. There is additional interest in camelina oil because of its unique fatty acid profile, which could make it useful for both industrial and nutritional purposes.


Flax is an annual oilseed grown for raw seeds and oil as end use products. Flax acreage is limited in Washington state. Dryland flax seed yields in the Pacific Northwest can range from 2000 to 3000 lbs of seed per acre. Flax can offer rotational diversity and benefits to the existing grain-legume crop rotations, and has been used as a companion crop with  chickpeas in Canada and the Northwest.


Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is plant from the Asteraceae (Sunflower) family, and native to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Safflower is a deep tap root crop with an above ground architecture similar to a thistle. Safflower is extremely drought tolerant. The safflower flower was traditionally used as a clothing and food dye. In recent years safflower has seed has been crushed and made into and edible oil or sold as whole seeds for bird food.


Sunflowers are a summer annual oilseed grown for oilseed, confection, and birdseed. Sunflowers are grown on small amount of acreage in the dryland production systems of the inland Pacific Northwest. Sunflowers thrive in warm environments and can be planted in the late spring. The late spring planting offers rotational advantages by allowing for an extended herbicide application season. Most sunflowers in the inland Pacific Northwest are currently sold into the bird seed market.

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Samantha Crow
Program Specialist 2