Camelina: Another Biofuel Feedstock You May Not Have Considered

Over a year ago we wrote about Camelina sativa, otherwise known as false flax and a member of the mustard family, an underdeveloped feedstock for biofuel which was being investigated by a limited number of farmers in the upper great plains.

Here’s an update and some more information on this the latest biofuel feedstock candidate claiming to be able to make an end-run around the biofuels versus food debate. Biofuels Digest provides the details:

Camelina Basics
In brief here’s why supporters of Camelina believe it can put an end to food v. fuel: It is tolerant of low rainfall and can grow in areas unsuitable for food crops; Crop yields are double those of soy beans; Its oil is more resistant to cold temperatures than other oils; It is cold tolerant; The meal left over after producing the oil is a good candidate for livestock feed. Can Be Grown in Rotation With Wheat
That’s all fine, but this is what caught my eye: According to Great Plains—a company trying to commercialize camelina biofuel production—camelina can be grown in rotation with wheat crops. Great Plains is claiming that by planting camelina in between crops of wheat farmers can produce up to 100 gallons of camelina oil per acre, while at the same time increasing wheat crop yields by 15 percent.

Author Touts Camelina
Jim Lane author of the original article is quite enthusiastic about the benefits of camelina. After a baseball analogy explaining that so far the barrier to expanding camelina production is growing education, he goes on to say:

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.

It sounds like a win-win, but more field trials probably need to be done before we jump into the open arms of camelina producers. Like other potential biofuel feedstocks, this one probably has a way to go before reaching commercial production, but given the growing concern about the sustainability of popular feedstocks such as corn, soybeans, rapeseed and palm oil, camelina seem to deserve a closer look than it’s been given so far.

via :: Biofuels Digest
image: Wikipedia
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Tags: Agriculture | Biofuels | Renewable Energy | United States

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