Researcher sees strong potential for oilseed crops
By MATTHEW WEAVER
LIND, Wash. -- Steve Camp doesn't worry about the price of diesel fuel at the pump anymore.
Camp has raised camelina on his LaCrosse, Wash., farm for five years. He presses the seed for oil, separating it from the resulting meal, and processes it into biodiesel.
Camp said he is 100 percent sustainable on his ranch with camelina as his biodiesel feedstock. The fuel powers everything from his diesel lawn mower to his trucks.
"There's no alterations you've got to have with your equipment," he said of modern diesel equipment. "If you've got an older piece of equipment that has a rubber fuel hose on it, you're probably going to have to change it out because biofuels have a high solvency rate."
Camp estimated it costs him $2.35 per gallon to make the fuel, including the cost of processing.
Camelina has a place as a rotational crop in dryland farming, Camp said. The meal is in high demand nationwide as a protein supplement for feed.
"People are saying they don't want to raise camelina because they don't have a market for that sort of thing," Camp said. "I'm here to say that market is out there. The problem is we're not raising enough of it."
Camp uses about 6 percent of his tillable acres for camelina.
He also said his fuel bill has been reduced by half by switching to direct seeding.
Camp is also the chief operating officer for Des Moines, Iowa-based Independence Energy Co., which is looking to move into Eastern Washington.
Washington State University plant pathologist Scot Hulbert has researched camelina and canola, testing to see if there are benefits when used in rotation with wheat.
Hulbert is enthusiastic about Camp's efforts and the potential for a local processing facility.
While he's also working with canola, Hulbert favors camelina, which will survive the winter, but he expects more farmers to plant it in the spring, since there are some weed control issues and no yield benefits from fall planting.
There hasn't been much market for camelina except for do-it-yourself efforts until now, Hulbert said.
"We need real markets to really grow it," he said. "Hopefully this will get the industry going. It's not going to increase without this."