Monsanto, don’t even think of messing with this.

CamelinaBy April Reeves

Farmers may have a cash crop for fuels with big yields and good ROI with Camelina.

Camelina, known as wildflax or ‘gold of pleasure’ is getting more than just attention from producers of Biojet fuels.

As far as I can find, it has not been genetically engineered yet, so Monsanto, hands off this little gem. Leave the farmers alone to work their crops and fields the way they use to.

The way the majority of them want to.

The way we consumers want them to.

The low-input, high oil content feedstock, which can be grown in rotation with wheat in a substitute for the fallow period, continues to gain traction as a renewable fuel, and joins algae, jatropha, and salicornia as the renewable jet fuel feedstocks of choice. The lifecycle analysis was conducted for UOP, which manufactures drop-in jet fuel (1).

(2) Here’s the lowdown on camelina. First, it grows on land unsuitable for food crops. It has yields that are roughly double that of soy. The oil it produces is more cold-resistant than the average biodiesel feedstock. It tolerates cold climates well – it has been grown for years in pockets of Montana. It’s supported by research and field trials at a number of land-grant colleges around the country – Oregon State, Montana State, Idaho among them. It grows wild in the US, which is to say it grows here, and grows well, and plays well with other crops. It has a particularly attractive concentration of omega-3 fatty acids that make camelina meal, left over after crushing, a particularly fine livestock feed candidate that is just now gaining recognition in the US and Canada.

All of that is good. But here’s what’s better. According to Sam Huttenbauer, CEO of Great Plains, The Camelina Company, camelina can be grown in a rotation of wheat crops. Farmers who have followed a wheat-fallow pattern, as is often seen in Washington and Oregon, can switch to a wheat-camelina-wheat pattern, realize up to 100 gallons of camelina oil per acre, and gain up to 15 percent more productivity on the wheat.

So, here’s a crop that goes a mile past fuel vs food, and one step beyond fuel and food, because it produces fuel and more food.

Impressive; even sort of unique.

Dr. Bill Schillinger at Washington State University recently described camelina’s business model to Capital Press as: “At 1,400 pounds per acre at 16 cents a pound, camelina would bring in $224 per acre; 28-bushel white wheat at $8.23 per bushel would garner $230.”

The major barrier to camelina is, according to all sources, grower education. Ball one, every grower is accustomed to making shifts in the crops they grow. Ball two, fewer still have the capital base to take the long term view. Ball three, in an era of rising input prices, the high prices for corn and soy are too tempting for most. And ball four, camelina’s geography has traditionally been restricted to the dry, cold Inland Empire of the northwest part of the country.

So, four balls, no hits, but camelina has reached first base. What will bring it home? For wheat farmers, it’s a natural short crop that can be grown following spring wheat, and adds value to land. For cotton farmers and others with starved soils, its a tolerant crop that produces a good, fast yield. A superior meal and a rich, virgin oil that performs well in the cold might also prove to be the trick as biodiesel blend percentages become more aggressive in the snowy north. It’s a smart, steady play for the grower looking to do better without taking the monstrous risks that are component parts of a switchgrass or jatropha plantation.

So to recap the benefits:

  1. Camelina can grow in unsuitable land.
  2. Camelina grows fast.
  3. Camelina biofuel performs well in the snowy north (high altitudes).
  4. Yields are close to double of soy.
  5. Can be used for livestock feed after, so it has a sustainable renewable purpose
  6. Can be rotated with wheat
  7. More cold-resistant than the average biodiesel.
  8. From what I can find it’s NOT Genetically Modified

Please pass this information on to any farmer you know. This may help pull some of our farmers out of the sad mess our governments and Biotech companies have got them into.

After all, we are NOTHING without our farmers. Lets keep them happy and thriving.

(1)   Camelina gets golden assessment http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/blog2/2009/05/12/camelina-gold-of-pleasure-gets-golden-assessment-in-renewable-jet-fuel-lifecycle-emissions-analysis-crop-increases-food-fuel-yields-in-trials/

(2)   Special biofuels digest report  http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/blog2/2008/08/18/special-biofuels-digest-report-on-camelina-an-advanced-biodiesel-wonder-crop/

More references:

Seed of hope? http://www.susoils.com/

Sustainable Oils  http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/blog2/2009/09/10/sustainable-oils-wins-navy-camelina-jet-fuel-contract-40k-gallons-option-for-150k-more/

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