Taking the Biofuels Initiative with Camelina
A 3,500-year-old crop may be the newest addition to the biofuel inventory in Washington state.
Camelina, a false or dwarf flax first grown in northern Europe around 1500 B.C., was one of the crop trials featured at the annual Washington State University Lind Dryland Agriculture Research Station field day outside Lind, Wash., last week. Approximately 200 growers and industry representatives attended the event.
WSU researchers are looking at camelina as a possible dryland oil crop in response to a statewide biofuels initiative funded last year by the Washington State Legislature, according to Bill Schillinger, crop and soil scientist at the Lind station. It would be used in rotation with winter wheat and summer fallow. The scientists are studying 18 different varieties of camelina with four different replications at Lind, Moscow, Idaho, and in Pendleton and Corvallis, Ore. So far, the most successful variety at Lind is “Calena.”
In addition to biofuels, camelina produces quality food oil and a meal that is about 40 percent protein that could be used as feed for livestock or fish, Schillinger said. It also can be used in salad oil and other diverse products, including camelina lip gloss.
Bill Pan, who heads the WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, said that 23 WSU researchers around the state also are looking at canola, sunflowers, safflower, soy beans and flax as possible sources of biofuels as well as grass crops such as switchgrass. “It doesn’t make sense to be importing Midwestern soybeans, tropical oils, or canola from Canada if we can grow our own here in-state,” he said. “It is a steep learning curve, but fortunately we have a lot of innovative growers who have been tinkering with these things for a number of years.”
Pan said it would take a number of years of study before the researchers will be able to make sound recommendations to growers about which biofuel crops to grow when.
For more information on research taking place at WSU’s Lind Dryland Research Station, please visit: http://www.lindstation.wsu.edu/.
Winter Peas, Please
With fertilizer prices rising astronomically, winter peas may provide growers with a relatively inexpensive way to boost winter wheat yields.
Kevin McPhee, a USDA-ARS research geneticist at WSU, and Howard Nelson from the Central Washington Grain Growers, outlined the advantages and disadvantages of growing winter peas in rotation with winter wheat and summer fallow. While the peas do need to be sprayed with herbicide for control of grassy weeds, they also offer some real advantages.
In addition to fitting well in rotation, winter peas are a legume, so can draw the nitrogen they need from the air and soil, eliminating the expense of fertilizing, Nelson said.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages, though, has to do with increased winter wheat yields following a planting of winter peas. In trials to date, Nelson and McPhee have realized a 37 bushel per acre increase in winter wheat yields.
In a cost-per-acre comparison, the scientists said winter peas are approximately $45 less expensive to grow than winter wheat.
WSU Cooperator Wins AFT Award
Kudos to Sequim farmer Nash Huber, who has been selected as the 2008 recipient of the American Farmland Trust’s Steward of the Land Award.
Huber is the first farmer in Washington State and the first organic vegetable farmer ever to receive the prestigious award. The preservation of farmland has long been a critical focus in Nash Huber’s life. A native of Illinois, the transplant said, “When I saw the fertile Sequim-Dungeness Valley in 1968, I knew I had to farm here.”
Nash works with the Organic Seed Alliance and WSU to develop seed crops such as spinach and chards for the Northwest. Nash is also investigating wheat varieties with WSU that might grow well in the unique climate of Dungeness.
“We have a year-round growing season, which is incredibly rare. The winters are mild, and summers are dry. We grow certain seed crops here that are only grown in one or two other places on the planet.”
Training the next generation of farmers is a major focus for Nash, and several of his farm crew have been working with him for years. “The young people who find their way to my farm get hooked on producing top quality organic food to feed their community. I can’t think of another profession that offers so much satisfaction to a person who is willing to put in the work.”
On Sept. 8, WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, in partnership with Tilth Producers of Washington, will sponsor a Farm Walk on Huber’s diversified organic farm. For more information on the Farm Walk, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/6d328s. A short slideshow of Huber’s operation can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/5pskdy.
Food Safety in a Minute Podcast Series Launches
An outbreak of salmonella in tomatoes and spinach takes food off the grocery shelves. Avian flu in chickens and BSE in cattle result in the destruction of millions of birds and cows. A natural disaster shuts down electricity, and your refrigerator warms up. Is your food safe to eat?
A new series of podcasts from Washington State University Extension helps answer some of these questions. Each “Food Safety in a Minute” podcast offers listeners a handy, easy-to-apply tip. The first in the series is available Wednesday, June 25. Additional podcasts in the series will be posted each Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. Pacific time.
With 76 million Americans a year experiencing a food-borne illness, this is a series you, your readers and listeners, and your family can’t afford to miss.
The Food Safety in a Minute podcast series addresses a wide gamut of issues, including holiday food safety, packing school lunches to insure children are eating safe food, how long to store canned food and many other topics.
Visit the Food Safety in a Minute Web page at http://cahnrsnews.wsu.edu/foodsafety/ to download the first in the series. Subscribe to the RSS feed to insure you don’t miss an installment. Each podcast is one minute long (and a one megabyte download or stream), making it perfect for use on radio and for the general public on the go.