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Ancient Oilseed Crop Making A Comeback
An ancient oilseed crop that was used during the Iron and Bronze Ages in Europe, is now showing promise in the U.S., Europe and Canada for multiple uses.
  "Camelina" can be utilized as bird seed, edible or industrial oil, or as feed for fish, livestock or poultry.
  Its high Omega 3 content and natural antioxidants also make it attractive to the health food industry. Camelina oil is very resistant to oxidation and rancidity, making it well suited for use as a cooking oil, although not a frying oil. It has an almond-like flavor and aroma.
  On the farm, it fits well with reduced tillage systems and cover crops, plus a low seeding rate and competitiveness with weeds means that it may also have the lowest input cost of any oilseed.
  Camelina grower Carter Fritz farms in Flathead County, near Kalispell, Montana, and has raised Camelina for two years.
  "In my opinion, it's not something that's going to go away. Camelina is a crop for the future," he says. "It's a nice rotation crop that doesn't take a lot of fertilizer. Yields in eastern Montana have been averaging about 1,000 to 1,500 pounds to the acre. Here in western Montana, the average has been closer to 1,800 or 2,000 pounds to the acre because of better moisture."
  The bushy mustard family plant has light yellow blossoms, grows about 2.5 to 3 ft. tall, and has seed pods, each containing 10 to 12 small seeds.
  Fritz seeds his camelina at approximately 3 lbs. to the acre. The tiny seeds germinate in less than 24 hours.
  Because the seeds are so small, harvesting the crop takes some extra attention.
  "Especially, if you're running an older combine, and there's any place for the seed to go out, it will," he says. "In augers or at the bottom of the tank, it will literally run right out and onto the ground, so you need to use duct tape to seal the cracks."
  By using small screens on the top sieve of the combine, growers have found the seed comes clean and is not difficult to manage.
  There are three different varieties currently being grown by U.S. farmers one is German, one Austrian, and the other French. Montana State University's Northwestern Ag Research Center in Creston is developing two more varieties: "Blaine Creek," and "Suneson," according to Research center superintendent Duane Johnson.
  Nearly 20,000 acres of Camelina were seeded across Montana in 2006 and there may be more than 100,000 acres in 2007.
  "It's harvested in July and works great in rotation with wheat because you can control grasses and weeds while it's growing to get a head start when it's time for wheat," Johnson says.
  Fritz purchased his seed from the research station and grew 30 acres in 2006. He cleaned the seed using a 3/64 screen and planted it with a Brillion drill. He points out that some others have broadcast theirs with fertilizer and rolled it into the ground.
  "You need to get it in the ground in the spring as soon as you can get on the land. It'll germinate at 18 degrees," Fritz says. "There's also a possibility that it can come through the winter - a friend of mine had Camelina and then seeded winter wheat into it, and the next year, he ended up with a dual crop. In Montana, there's also the possibility using it to grow a double crop. If you plant in March, it could be harvested in late-June, and then you could plant another barley crop or peas, to take off for silage the same year."
  So far, Fritz has sold all of his crop as seed to people in Montana, North Dakota, Arizona, Washington and Colorado. He's hoping a crushing plant will soon be established in his area to create an economical oil market for him.
  The proper name for this crop is "camelina sativa," but it's also known as gold-of-pleasure, false flax, wild flax, linseed dodder, German sesame, and Siberian oilseed.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Carter Fritz, 208 Birch Grove Rd., Kalispell, Montana 59901 (ph 406 752-0309; ccfritz@centurytel.net).

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2007 - Volume #31, Issue #4