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- California’s 20 billion-gallon gasoline and diesel habit makes it ground zero for low-carbon and renewable fuel development, since there is a state objective that calls for 20 percent of the fuel for California engines be grown in state by 2020.
- Camelina may be a better crop fit than grain because it will produce 1,500 to 1,600 pounds of camelina per acre on 4-6 inches of winter rainfall.
Oil content of the 12 camelina varieties tested by Kaffka was even higher, 35.9 percent to 38.6 percent at the UC Five Points, Calif., research station. Unlike canola, camelina is resistant to shatter.
“That is what makes camelina more attractive than canola, which shatters like crazy at harvest,” said UC agronomist Bob Hutmacher, who is working with Kaffka.
Kaffka has recorded camelina yields up to 2,500 pounds per acre. He is testing it with limited irrigation and nitrogen.
Tranquility, Calif., grower Keith Eubanks was all ears at the field day.
“I have some dryland acreage near Coalinga where I want to plant 20 acres of camelina this fall,” he said.
Eubanks said, however, the challenge for anyone promoting fall-planted oilseed crops — irrigated or dryland — is the return for competing crops.
“Barley got up to $250 per ton; wheat to $290; and even safflower reached $550 per ton,” noted Eubanks. It is difficult for a new, untried crop to compete against those prices. Nevertheless, he wants to give camelina a try.
Kaffka’s research is funded by the California Energy Commission and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. At WREC he is also evaluating canola, as well as meadowfoam as a potential biofuel oilseed crops.
“The demand for biofuel is in California. It would be good, if we could figure out how to grow these crops here,” he said.
Westlands’ abandoned ground seems to be ideal for these low-water use crops as well as to develop wind, solar and even nuclear energy. Companies are looking at all three within the sprawling 600,000-acre irrigation district.
Sandroni said he has also talked with agricultural retailers about supporting camelina production.
“We will probably focus on larger West Side growers to get our initial production,” he said. “If it works for them, we can expand it.” There are small existing commercial plots already in California, he said.
It is simple to plant. Sandroni said growers need to drill in 8 pounds of seed per acre in a prepared seedbed. It will sprout with rainfall.
“It will grow where other crops will not,” he said.
Camelina plants are heavily branched, growing from 1 to 3 feet tall, producing seed pods containing many small, tiny oily seeds.
Sustainable Oils is working with crop protection companies to give growers more herbicide options. Poast, a post emergent grass control product, is labeled for the crop. Even with the availability of Poast, farmers should apply glyphosate in the fall and perhaps even again before the camelina emerges to ensure the crop gets off to a good start. Camelina competes well against weeds once a crop is established, but it isn’t a miracle crop. Manage it right and it works.
After milling, according to Sandroni, the remaining meal is a protein-rich feed source for cattle, poultry or swine. Sustainable Oils has led an industry coalition that has secured approvals for feeding in rations for broilers, laying chickens, feedlot beef cattle and swine, and is working to secure camelina meal approvals for all animal uses.