A traditional herbal plant, calendula produces a fast-drying oil that can be used in paints and varnishes, surface coatings, lubricants, pesticides and cleaning solvents. Calendula oil is a safe substitute for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have been banned or restricted in California, Europe and elsewhere. “The demand for VOC alternatives has greatly increased,” says Gesch, who is part of a national team developing management practices for the new crop.

The plant: Annual oilseed with bright yellow flowers, 20-30 in. tall, with a strong taproot; seeds contain about 17% oil.

Equipment: Conventional.

Production: Plant in very early spring as soon as hard frost risk has passed; harvest 100-120 days after planting.

Yield: In Midwest, 1 ton/acre or more.

In a corn-soybean rotation: Harvest window falls after spring wheat, before soybeans; residue may suppress soybean cyst nematode reproduction.