BURLEY, Idaho – Alternative crops tend to grab headlines when commodity prices are low and producers are interested in finding crops with a better profit margin. It’s a harder sell when grain prices are near historic highs, but one alternative crop is gaining attention thanks to it’s adaptation for dryland production.
Camelina probably isn’t dominating the conversation at coffee shops, but researchers are starting to give this oilseed a closer look.
Juliet Windes, University of Idaho Extension crop management specialist at Idaho Falls, said she’s been impressed with what she’s seen.
“I think it could be competitive in areas with cold temperatures and a short growing season,” she told grain growers during the annual UI cereal school in Burley this winter.
An area like Soda Springs, where growers have been locked into continuous grain rotations for up to 20 years, comes to mind. Pivot corners may be another good option.
Montana planted about 50,000 acres of camelina last year. Oregon could provide a market for biodiesel made from camelina. The Portland City Council began requiring a 5 percent biodiesel blend for all diesel fuel sold within city limits starting in July 2007. That rises to a 10 percent blend in July 2010.
The state of Oregon has also enacted a Renewable Fuels Initiative that mandates the use of biofuels.
Tim Parker, president of Willamette Biomass Processors, Inc., also spoke at cereal school. Rather than making biofuels, his Salem, Ore.-based company is focusing on providing a place for farmers to bring oilseeds that can be crushed and then sold to a biodiesel plant.
While growers would like to be paid 25 cents a pound to raise camelina, they won’t pay $8 per gallon for biodiesel.
“We’ve got to find something that’s profitable for you, the grower, but still profitable for the processor,” he said.
That’s one reason he’s excited about camelina. The oilseed can grow in regions that receive as little as 6 to 8 inches of annual precipitation and still yield 1,100 to 1,200 pounds per acre. Researchers at the UI Parma Research and Extension Center got 1,950 pounds per acre off some irrigated plots, showing that the crop may also fit some irrigated situations.
Parker estimated growers would pay about $1.60 per bushel to grow camelina.
Fertilizer requirements are minimal, and seed was running $1 per pound plus freight. Seeding rate is 5 lbs. per acre. At the end of January, the market was supporting a price of about $5 per bushel
Because camelina germinates at 38 degrees, it is a very-early-season crop. Parker said growers can lose up to 100 lbs. of yield by planting after March 15.
Windes thinks camelina could be broadcast on frozen ground or sown with minimum surface incorporation.
“You could seed early on frozen ground and let it take advantage of the early-season moisture,” she said.
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — A small Oregon startup company developing new technology to convert waste wood and grass into biofuel has won a $100,000 federal grant.
Trillium FiberFuels is testing a new method for making cellulosic ethanol from fibrous plant material.
The U.S. Energy Department grant last week was the only one made to an Oregon company by the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program.
Trillium was one of 360 companies receiving a total of $36 million nationwide.
The grant money will boost the renewable fuel company’s credibility with investors but is not enough for its research, said Chris Beatty, a former Hewlett-Packard employee and co-founder of Trillium.
Trillium is also seeking a grant from the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute as well as funding from the state under the Business Energy Tax Credit.
“If they get something going, we’d probably participate in some way with a tax credit,” said Rick Wallace, a senior policy analyst for the Oregon Department of Energy. “The time is coming when we back off the incentives for corn and send them to cellulosic.”
Cellulosic ethanol is “really where Oregon wants to go” with renewable fuel development, said Wallace.
Ethanol — the same kind of alcohol found in wine, beer and liquor — can also be used as fuel or a fuel supplement, and can be made with a variety of crops.
The federal government has supported conversion of corn into ethanol but critics point out it takes larges amounts of energy to produce and diverting corn into biofuel production is contributing to rising food prices around the world.
Waste wood and grass, however, are abundant and have no food value, supporters say.
“There’s a huge opportunity for cellulosic” in Oregon, said Tomas Endicott, a co-founder of SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel and a renewable energy consultant. “It absolutely is worthwhile to invest in that technology today to bring down the costs and improve the technology.”
The grant puts Trillium in the running for the second phase of the small business grants for up to $1 million if the technology proves feasible.
Founded in 2006 by three former Hewlett-Packard employees and an Oregon State University researcher, Trillium is looking for a commercially-viable way to process cellulose, the abundant fiber that gives plants their structure.
Information from: Gazette-Times, http://www.gtconnect.com
That’s right folks. By popular demand, we have added a 25-passenger this past month. It rocks and it rolls! Just fresh off an eco-friendly oil change, a new IPOD-enabled PA radio, and charcoal carpeted walls, 100% waste product, of which 90% chicken fat fuels this beast. It is a mean green chicken fat machine as one parent of Arbor School stated.
The summer is filling up fast with services for the mini-bus, so hurry up and book your next event! Some examples of upcoming services include corporate events, weddings, wine tours, and Oregon Tradeswomen field trips. (more…)