Farmers may consider growing carinata to make jet fuel

Posted on 22 Dec 2014 by Tim Brown

Seed producers are hoping western North Dakota farmers may be interested in growing an alternative crop: carinata to make jet fuel.

Garret Groves, of Agrisoma Biosciences, a Canadian company, said he thinks western North Dakota farmers may consider growing carinata, a variety of mustard seed that can be made into a biofuel indistinguishable from petroleum products.

According to a report from the Bismarck Tribune, one potential consumer, the US Navy, is targeting carinata to help reach its goal of serving half of its energy needs with non-oil sources by 2020.

In Florida, 3,500 acres of carinata are being planted as a winter crop, according to Christine Bliss of the University of Florida during the North Dakota State University Hettinger Research Extension Center’s annual Western Dakota Crops Day at the Hettinger Armory on Thursday.

Seed producer Agrisoma Biosciences aims for North Dakota farmers to contribute acres to its goal of 50,000 acres planted next year.

John Rickertsen, research agronomist at the Hettinger Research Extension Center, said he planted his first test plot of carinata this past year and the harvest was good. He said the harvest and plant times are about the same as canola, and carinata is supposed to be more drought resistant. It also grows well on marginal lands.

Rickertsen said management of carinata is similar to canola and, judging by the amount of canola he saw planted between Hettinger and Richardton, he thinks farmers will consider it, if the price for the crop is right. Many in the area who grow corn for ethanol production are accustomed to the idea of growing crops for fuel.

“Economics is going to be a factor,” he said. “I wouldn’t be working with it if I didn’t think it had promise.”

The benefit of jet fuel made from carinata is it has lower carbon emissions. It can be used as a direct replacement for jet fuel, with no blending or engine changes required, Bliss said.

Carinata also works better than canola and similar crops as a biofuel because it produces more and better quality oil with high amino acid content, Bliss said. It is also not a food crop, such as canola.