Animal feed resources information system

Crambe (Crambe abyssinica)

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).


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Common names 

Abyssinian kale, colewort, Abyssinian cabbage [English], crambe, chou d'Abyssinie, crambe d'Abyssinie [French], krambe,Ölkrambe, abessinischer Meerkohl  [German]

Related feed(s) 

Crambe  (Crambe abyssinica) is a cruciferous oil plant that can be grown as a winter or spring crop (Falasca et al., 2010). It has low cultivation costs and can be mechanically harvested (Falasca et al., 2010). Crambe is mainly grown for its oil and oil products that have many industrial applications as lubricant, inhibitor of corrosion, ingredient for synthetic rubber, plastic films, plasticizers, nylon adhesives and electrical isolation. It is a source of protein isolates, and is used as an additive to waxes (Ecocrop, 2017). Erucamide is a high value product for the cosmetic industry. Crambe meal can be used as a protein source for ruminants.

Morphological description

Crambe (Crambe abyssinica) is an erect annual cruciferous species that grows to a height of 0.1-0.9 (-2) m, depending on season and plant density. Crambe is taprooted and its roots go deeper than 15 cm in the soil layer. Crambe branches in the upper half of the plant. It has large pinnately compound leaves becoming smaller upward. The inflorescence is a long racemous panicle bearing small, white or yellow flowers. After pollination, crambe develops numerous cylindrical one-seeded capsules about 5 mm in diameter. The seeds are greenish brown in colour, about 0.8-2.6 mm in diameter. Capsules (hulls) remain around the seeds and represent 25-30% of the seed. The weight of 1000 seeds is approximately 6-10 g (Falasca et al., 2010).

Crambe seeds have been reported to contain 35.6–42.8% oil (Castelman et al., 1999). Differences in oil content are mainly due to the presence of hulls. In dehulled seeds, oil content may be up to 54% while it is only 25-33% in non dehulled seeds (Ecocrop, 2017). Protein content is about 26% in dehulled seeds.


Crambe is a fast growing short season crop which appears to be a better potential domestic crop than rapeseed (Ecocrop, 2017)Its oil can be distinguished from other ones because of its high content of erucic acid (50–60%, C22:1),  a long chain fatty acid which has special industrial uses. In the U.S.A., crambe has been cultivated to replace importation of rape of high erucic content from Poland and Canada. Crambe is the cheapest source or Erucic acid (Ecocrop, 2017). Oil extracted from crambe seeds can be used as industrial lubricant, as an inhibitor of the corrosion and as an ingredient to manufacture synthetic rubber. It also can be used to produce plastic films, plasticizers, nylon, adhesives and electrical isolation. Erucamide, a substance yielded from the oil is used to prepare cosmetics, besides other industrial uses. 

Crambe seeds, crambe cake or crambe meal can be used as protein supplement for livestock. It contains 25–35% protein when siliques are included, and 46–58% when they are removed. Because of its well balanced amino acid composition, a dairy ingestion till 5% has been approved for cattle ration in U.S.A (Oplinger et al., 1991). On the contrary, crambe oil meal is not recommended for pigs and poultry (Ecocrop, 2017). 

Crambe is used in crop rotations for alleviating weed, pest and disease build-up (Ecocrop, 2017). The oilmeal resulting from extraction is also applied as a fertilizer and an insecticide (Oyen, 2007; Peterson et al., 2000).


Crambe (Crambe abyssinica) is thought to have originated from Mediterranean region, western Asia and easternAfrica (from Ethiopia to Tanzania). As a Mediterranean and tropical highlands species, crambe is well adapted to cold weather during winter (Weiss et al., 1983). Crambe occurs naturally in Mediterranean Europe, Morocco and the Middle East (Oyen, 2007). Only a little part of its history as crop is known: cultivation probably started in the URSS and there are evidence of experiments in Russia, Sweden and Poland after WorldWar II (Mastebroek et al., 1994; Papathanasiou, 1966; White et al., 1966; Zimmermann, 1962; Grashchienkov, 1959). It can be grown at elevations between sea level and 2000 m or even up to 2500 m in Kenya.

Crambe can grow as a spring crop in Europe or as winter crop in Mediterranean climates (Falasca et al., 2010). Crambe is grown in the USA, in Pakistan and was more recently assessed for cultivation in China (Wang et al., 2000)

Crambe can grow in sites with rainfall in the range of 350 to 1200 mm, but for commercial production and best oil production, annual rainfall should be about 800-1500 mm.  Crambe has efficient taproot and  does not need irrigation; it can survive dry periods but yield and oil content can be seriously hampered by water scarcity if dry spell occurs at early stages of maturity or at blooming (Falasca et al., 2010; Castelman et al., 1999). It grows where annual average temperature are in the range of 5.7°C to 16.2°C. Crambe seedlings are relatively tolerant of frost since they can survive -4°C to -6°C. At later stages of growth frost tolerance is reduced and -1°C can kill the plant (Ecocrop, 2017). Crambe is sensitive to hail but can recover.

Crambe grows where soils have a pH range of 5.0 to 7.8 (IENICA, 2002). It does not well on rocky, shallow soils, neither does it well on very wet or waterlogged soils (Duke, 1983; IENICA, 2002). Seeds of crambe are moderately tolerant to saline soils during germination within a range of moderate soil temperature of 10°C to 30°C. When soil temperatures decrease down 10°C in saline soils, germination is delayed (Falasca et al., 2010).


Cultivation of crambe (Crambe abyssinica) grains increased in importance due to the high erucic acid content in the oil (Kampf et al., 2001). Crambe seeds are crushed to extract oil. After pressing or extracting the oil, pressed cake or extracted oil meal are obtained, which may be useful as feedstuff for cattle and to very little extent for pigs(Kampf et al., 2001).

Forage management 


Crambe seed yields vary widely between 1 and 5 tons seeds/ha under varying environmental situations and different countries. In Brazil, production of 1000–1500 kg/ha are expected  (Falasca et al., 2010). Yields between 1.1–1.6 tons/ha were obtained in Russia and 0.45–2.5 tons/ha in the U.S.A., with higher yields in weeded fields (Falasca et al., 2010). In Austria, yields from 0.97 to 3.33 ton/ha with an oil content of 23%–38% have been reported (Vollmann et al., 1993). In 1995, in Italy, the genotype ‘‘Mario’’, selected for the central and northern conditions of Italy yielded  2.9 ton/ha (Fontana et al., 1998). Later, after a 3-year assay, cv. Mario produced seed yields higher than 4 ton/ha (Fila et al., 2002). Yields in irrigated and  N-fertilized crambe could reach up to 5 ton/ha (Buchanan et al., 1981). Under different environmental situations in Europe different cultivars of crambe yielded an average of 2353 kg of seed/ha or 846 kg of oil containing an average of 57.8% of erucic acid  (Falasca et al., 2010). In Europe it has been considered that if seed yields were over 1.8 ton/ha, crambe cultivation could be developed on a large scale. 


Crambe seeds should be sown at a rate of 10-25 kg/ha on a well-prepared, fine and firm seedbed, no deeper than 2 cm (Oyen, 2007). Crambe should be planted in narrow rows to limit weed competition and lessen risk of late season lodging (Omafra, 2012). Spring crambe crops reaches maturity uniformly and should be harvested  90–100 days after emergence. When fruit maturity occurs, leaves turn yellow and drop. When the last seed-bearing branches have turned straw-coloured, harvest must be done wothout delay in order to avoir shattering. If maturity does not occur uniformly, swathing may be necessary but it should not be done too early because it could reduce erucic acid content of the seed (Oyen, 2007).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Crambe seeds

Content of glucosinolates in crambe seed was higher than in rapeseed, with epi-progoitrin over 95%. Several detoxification approaches were investigated. Glucosinolates were destroyed by toasting but protein quality was impaired (Liu et al., 1994).

Crambe meal

Decorticated and defatted crambe meal has been reported to conain nearly 50% protein with an amino acid profile similar to that of rapeseed oilmeal. Crambe meal was low in cell wall constituents and had high energy digestibility for rats and pigs  (Liu et al., 1994). The seed pericarp was fibrous and poorly digested by cows (Liu et al., 1994).


Potential constraints 

Crambe oil contains glucosinolates and eruci acid, both potentially toxic to animals. 


The residual seed meal, though high in protein (40% in decorticated meal and about 30% in other meal), contains glucosinolates which make it unpalatable and limit its use for animal feed. It can be made palatable by treatment with ammonia or sodium carbonate, to neutralize the undesirable components, or by heat treatment (Falasca et al., .

Glucosinolate contents were found to be 50 or 77 mmol/kg dry matter (DM) in the cake or in the meal (Kampf et al., 2001).

Glucosinolates prevent crambe from being fed to non ruminants. In the digestive system, glucosinolates are enzymatically broken down into active compounds such as isothiocyanate, nitrile, or thiocyanate which can cause damage to liver and kidneys and thyroid glands and loss of appetite in monogastrics (Falasca et al., 2010).

Humid heat treatment before seed processing (for oil extraction) may be a way of inactivating breaking enzymes and thus preventing glucosinolate breakdown into toxic compounds (Falasca et al., 2010).

Erucic acid

Crambe contains up to 56% erucic acid related to total fatty acids. Erucic acid was proved to have toxic effects on rats and pigs. Erucic acid toxicity was reported when fed at 1500 mg/kg bw/day in rats, and at 900 mg/kg bw/day  in nursling pigs . Erucic acid results in myocardial lipidosis (an affection that reduces heart contractions) and in heart lesions. It has been established that the NOEL was 750 mg/kg bw/day in pigs (Food Standard Australia New-Zealand, 2003).


The oilcake can be included up to 50% in supplements for ruminants (Göhl, 1981).

It has been shown that IVDMD of crushed crambe and crambe meal were respectively 62 and 58.6% in steers. Protein degradability in crambe meal was lower than in crushed crambe, which suggests that crambe meal could be considered a source of RUP (rumen undegradable protein) in cattle diet (Goes et al., 2017).

In a comparison of 5 oilseds, properly dehulled and defatted crambe meal was reported to have the highest potential degradability. Potential rumen degradabilities of OM for crambe meal, crambe cake were 96 and 73% respectively while it was 85% for rapeseed meal (Liu et al., 1993). 


Dairy cattle

Total tract digestibilities of protein in dairy cows were 98% and 95% for crambe meal and crambe cake, respectively while it was 92% for rapeseed meal (Liu et al., 1993). The NEL (net energy for lactation) contents of crambe cake and meal were analysed to be 7.2 or 6.0 MJ NEL/kg DM for cows (Kampf et al., 2001).

When included at 30% in concentrates, crambe byproducts resulted in a decreased intake of concentrates in dairy cows. Milk yield decreased correspondingly (Kampf et al., 2001). A former study had shown that dairy cows fed ad libitum on grass silage, had reduced feed intake and lowered milk yield when crambe meal or crambe pellets were included at 30% dietary level. Crambe pellets had deleterious effects on milk fat level and resulted in 2% erucic acid in milk fat (Kampf et al., 1999).


Crossbred steers given 100% soyabean meal (SBM), or different combinations of soybean meal (SBM) and crambe meal (CM) ranging from 67 SBM / 33 CM  to 33 SBM/ 67 CM or only CM. Wether steers were put on backgrounding diet or on finishing diet, the experiment showed that crambe meal resulted in similar animal performance as soybean meal with no difference in weight gain (overall 1.41 to 1.46 kg/da), no difference on feed conversion effciencies and other average efficiencies and no difference on carcass characteristics (Anderson et al., 1993). 


Crambe meal/cake is a valuable protein source for ruminants that has been assessed to replace soybean meal in lambs diet in Brazil (Itavo et al., 2016; Breda Canova et al., 2015). 

Crambe cake with high fat content (29%) could replace soybean meal at 0, 22, 44 and 64% in lambs diet without affecting animal health (Breda Canova et al., 2015). Crambe cake inclusion, however, resulted in a linear decrease of DM, OM, EE, gross energy, ADF, NDF, cellulos digestibilities and of the percentage of total digestible nutrients (TDN), which resulted in decreased daily DM intake. Nonetheless,high fat and protein content of crambe cake allowed high energy and protein intakes. Moreover high fat content was reported to reduce methane emissions in lambs (Breda Canova et al., 2015).

In an other experiment where lambs were fed on extracted crambe meal containing less than 5% EE at inclusion levels ranging from 6% to 19%, DM intake was reported to increase while digestibility and lambs weights were not affected by crambe meal inclusion. Feed efficiency was thus reduced. Feeding crambe meal had no effect on carcass yield,carcass quality or meat juicyness (Itavo et al., 2016). Inclusion of crambe meal could reduce saturated fatty acis and increase unsaturated fatty acids in lambs meat (Itavo et al., 2016).



Crambe meal is not really suitable for pigs. The energy contents of crambe cake and meal were analysed to be 10.6 or 9.3 MJ ME/kg for pigs (Kampf et al., 2001). Low dietary levels (10%) of crambe cake in pig diets decreased liveweight gain significantly from 782 g/d in controls to 742 g/d in the experimental group (Kampf et al., 2001).


No information on the use of Crambe abyssinica meal in rabbit feeding seems available in the international literature (February 2017). Nevertheless this meal, eventually after removal of the glucosinolates, can be used without alteration of performance to feed ruminants, pigs or chickens (Mustakas et al., 1976; Liu, 1994; Steg et al., 1994). Thus, this meal could be considered as a potential source of proteins (~45% DM) for rabbit feeding. However some direct preliminary experiments are necessary before commercial use.

One of the theoretical advantage of this source of proteins is the relatively high level in lysine (~ 105% of rabbit's requirements) and in sulphur amino acids (115% of requirements). The presence of glucosinolates would most probably fail to create any problems since rabbit were shown to be resistant to glucosinolates in rapeseed meal (Lebas et al., 1977) or in mustard meal (Tripathi et al., 2008).

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 93.0 1
Crude protein % DM 33.3 29.2 37.4 2
Crude fibre % DM 11.0 4.4 17.5 2
NDF % DM 26.1 1
ADF % DM 21.2 1
Ether extract % DM 20.8 16.9 24.7 2
Ash % DM 7.3 7.2 7.3 2
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 23.0 *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Arginine % protein 5.7 1
Cystine % protein 2.6 1
Glycine % protein 5.3 1
Histidine % protein 2.2 1
Isoleucine % protein 3.9 1
Leucine % protein 6.2 1
Lysine % protein 4.9 1
Methionine % protein 1.6 1
Phenylalanine % protein 3.5 1
Threonine % protein 4.6 1
Tryptophan % protein 1.5 1
Tyrosine % protein 2.5 1
Valine % protein 5.1 1
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 87 1
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 72.9 *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 16.8 *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Liu et al., 1994; Liu et al., 1994; Van Etten et al., 1961

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:44:04

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 87.6 10.6 69.4 96.8 5  
Crude protein % DM 45.3 8.9 32.5 55.7 9  
Crude fibre % DM 8.7 8.5 3.8 23.8 5  
NDF % DM 29.8   10.7 48.9 2  
ADF % DM 22.3 14.9 7.4 37.2 3  
Ether extract % DM 2.8 2.0 1.1 6.0 6  
Ash % DM 7.4 2.6 4.1 10.4 6  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 19.7         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 9.0       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 10.6   10.5 10.8 2  
Potassium g/kg DM 11.1       1  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.2       1  
Magnesium g/kg DM 4.5       1  
Manganese mg/kg DM 31       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 48       1  
Copper mg/kg DM 6       1  
Iron mg/kg DM 192       1  
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Arginine % protein 5.9       1  
Cystine % protein 2.6       1  
Histidine % protein 2.3       1  
Isoleucine % protein 3.6       1  
Leucine % protein 6.4       1  
Lysine % protein 4.8   4.3 5.2 2  
Methionine % protein 1.6       1  
Threonine % protein 4.1       1  
Tryptophan % protein 1.2   1.2 1.2 2  
Valine % protein 4.5       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
a (N) % 19.4       1  
b (N) % 22.0       1  
c (N) h-1 0.136       1  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 36         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 35   35 85 2 *
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 76.5         *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 15.1         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Goes et al., 2010; Korsrud et al., 1978; Ledoux et al., 1999; Liu et al., 1994; Liu et al., 1994; Nehring et al., 1970; Swanek et al., 2001; Van Etten et al., 1965

Last updated on 12/02/2014 15:15:38

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 90.8   88.0 93.5 2  
Crude protein % DM 21.3   15.5 27.0 2  
Crude fibre % DM 10.8       1  
NDF % DM 61.0       1  
ADF % DM 51.7       1  
Ether extract % DM 55.0       1  
Ash % DM 3.4   3.0 3.8 2  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 30.5         *
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
a (N) % 18.3       1  
b (N) % 38.1       1  
c (N) h-1 0.105       1  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 46         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 42         *
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 73.1         *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 22.3         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Goes et al., 2010; Nehring et al., 1970

Last updated on 12/02/2014 15:17:26

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DATASHEET UNDER CONSTRUCTION. DO NOT QUOTE. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/45 Last updated on June 26, 2017, 14:31