Camelina is a stress-resistant plant which fits well in dryland areas as part of a broadleaf crop rotation, including wheat, barley, and oats. Johnson says camelina complements cereal production – not necessarily replaces it.

“We’re confident with average rainfall between 6 to 8 inches a farmer can make a commercial (camelina) crop - which is somewhat less water than required for most cereals,” Johnson said. “It fits well in a state with a rainy season that gets at least 6 inches of rain (annually).”

Sustainable Oils trials in the Central Valley did not require supplemental irrigation.

Camelina is a 100-day crop with high seed production and less stubble and residue than most cereal crops. Camelina grows 1-3 feet tall producing seed pods with small seeds containing 35 percent to 38 percent oil high in omega-3 fatty acid.

Expected camelina yields in California are likely to range from 1,100 to 1,300 pounds.

Johnson suggests planting seed into a weed-free bed into the first quarter inch of soil. A soil fertility test is recommended. The crop requires about 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre and about 15 pounds per acre of phosphorus.

The seed germinates quickly and shades out most weeds. Poast is the only herbicide currently registered for camelina in the Golden State.

Johnson has never seen a significant yield loss from disease based on camelina production in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and western Canada. Aphid and flea beetle populations can occur at low levels. Migrating cutworms have been treated with insecticide sprays on the field perimeter; not in the actual crop.

Johnson says the same equipment used in cereal grain production also works for camelina with a few adjustments. Commercial growers in other camelina-growing regions either straight cut with a combine or run a swather before the combine. Both methods provide good results.

One risk with camelina and other energy crops is the unavailability of commodity-specific insurance coverage through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation. Johnson says a camelina crop loss would fall under the farmer’s existing overall catastrophic insurance plan.

High-quality biomass from the crushing process is fed to livestock. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved camelina biomass for laying hens, poultry broilers, and feedlot beef with approved ratio caps. The FDA is weighing camelina biomass use in dairy rations with a decision expected next year.

Sustainable Oils will contract with existing California oilseed crushing facilities to covert the seed into oil. Contracts with several existing California crushers were under final development at press time. The camelina oil will be transported to AltAir Fuels for refining.

Sustainable Oils will hold a grower meeting on Sept. 6. The meeting details when finalized will be available at www.susoils.com.

While camelina is a cropping option for farmers, the oilseed crop is another way farmers can grow renewable fuels and reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

“When a farmer produces camelina, the oil replaces foreign petroleum,” Johnson said. “The camelina is grown and refined locally and sold domestically. The farmer is contributing to U.S. energy security.”

cblake@farmpress.com