Grow your Own Biofuel Crop - Penn State University


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Grow your Own Biofuel Crop - Penn State University

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Grow your Own Biofuel Crop - Penn State University

  1. 1. - October 200814 CropsUpdate: Grow your own biofuel crop PHOTO COURTESY OF GENE HEMPHILL/NEW HOLLANDBy JOHN VOGEL IOFUEL — growing and making itB — was a top attraction at August’s Penn State Ag Progress Days.Farmer interest in raising oilseed cropssuch as canola and camelina, which canbe pressed and burned straight in dieselengines, is growing beyond curiosity. Consider researching and experi-menting with winter canola as a double-crop and potential cover crop, suggestsGlen Cauffman, farm manager for PennState’s College of Ag Sciences. It’s morewinter-hardy than spring-seeded canola.Since it’s a rapeseed crop, it may qualifyfor cover crop payments if your stateoffers them. Fall-seeded rapeseed (winter canola)is already being tried in Maryland andDelaware. Perdue Inc. put out plots thisfall, according to company officials. “Canola will take off now,” predictsCauffman. “Farmers are concernedabout diesel fuel costs. When you raiseyour own fuel, you’ll know your costs.”Twin-tank tech is hereAg Progress Days was one of the firstNorth American public exposures ofa straight-vegetable-oil fuel system onmajor-manufacturer Tier 3 tractor en-gines. New Holland had fitted two trac-tors with the Elsbett twin-tank system,marketed mainly in Europe, reports New BIOFUEL PUSHER: Penn State farm manager Glen Cauffman, working with New Holland, has led the college’s efforts inHolland engineer Paul Trella. becoming a national research leader on biofuels, particularly biodiesel. The tractors start with biodiesel.Once under load, they switch to veg- Key Pointsetable oil, then back to biodiesel whenidling, explains Cauffman. ■ Fall-seeded canola varieties have Diesel fuel and biodiesel combust potential as a straight biofuel.better at cold temperatures, but veg- ■ Rapeseed may qualify as a cover crop andetable oil combusts more completely a cash crop.when the engine is warm. Computer con- ■ European technology is available to burntrols sense engine operating parameters farm-grown oil crops.and automatically switch as needed. Trella cautions that SVO is still being having your engine oil analyzed. Theseevaluated. CNH/New Holland does not measures prevent potentially damagingyet approve SVO or the Elsbett system. “polymerization” of vegetable oil mixing SVO fuel quality is a concern voiced with the engine lubricating Trella and Elsbett experts. Rapeseed On two-tank conversions, the com-oil is the most commonly used SVO in pany advises running on conventionalnorthern Europe. Special quality stan- diesel before letting the motor cool.dards exist for rapeseed oil used as road This flushes the SVO out of the injectionfuel. system and readies it for a cold start Elsbett, for instance, recommends next time.SVO and its fuel system only for heavy- Learn more about the German tech-use engines. It also advises shorter ser- nology and Elsbett’s U.S. marketing part- TWIN-FUELED: This Elsbett auxiliary fuel tank feeds diesel fuel to fuel injectorsvice intervals between oil changes, or ners on the Web at until the engine automatically switches to straight vegetable oil. Camelina growers breaking ground for biofuel revolution M OST places in the East are still talking about the coming biofuel revolution. But in Crawford County, Pa., and handling the tiny seeds. No contractual agreement exists with Lake Erie Biofuels. But Hunter says, meal high in omega-3 fatty acid is left. Marketing it is one of the details still to be worked out. farmers already are growing for it. “They’ll buy all the oil we can give them.” The local Extension office organized Up to this point, Lake Erie Biofuels Future plans? about 15 growers into a cooperative to imports most of its oil from out of the “We want to add acres and growers produce a promising oilseed feedstock region. in 2009,” says Hunter. “We want more called camelina. Camelina could play a key comple- people to get involved and let capi- “This year, we had about 300 acres mentary role in a no-till system, based talism take over. planted on a dozen farms,” says Joel on cover crops and rotations. With a “The potential is there to do value- Hunter, Crawford County Extension growing season of 85 to 105 days, it can added ag products from the meal,” agronomist. be no-tilled early, then followed by an- the Penn State Extension agent adds. OILY PODS: Camelina seed pods The group was working with the other crop. “We’re hoping we can feed it to poultry are the size of small peas with pin- owners of a Union City crush plant to ex- This crop grows to about 3 feet and for production of high omega-3 eggs. head-sized seeds that are 40% oil, tract oil. They drew on the experience of has branched stems that become woody But at this point, we would settle for compared to only 20% for soybeans. Ernst Seeds of Meadville for harvesting at maturity. Once the oil is pressed out, a just feeding it to livestock.”