Harvest is underway for North Dakota's first crop of jet fuel.
"Yields are looking pretty good," said Garret Groves, of Canadian seed producer Agrisoma Biosciences. "We’ve had some stuff we’re really happy with, and we've had some stuff that’s been OK."
Western North Dakota farmers agreed to plant 6,000 acres of carinata, a variety of mustard seed and alternative crop to canola that can be made into a biofuel. Groves said some producers growing the crop faced extreme heat but yields are slightly above average given the conditions.
"For the most part, things have been pretty promising," Groves said. "Thirty bushels is a pretty good average."
Though with only 25 percent of the acreage harvested, that average could climb, Groves added.
Farmer Wes Frederick chose to plant 100 acres of carinata on his land west of Flasher. He said the fact that the seeds don't fall out of their shells as easily and its ability to grow in drier areas weighed on his decision to give the new crop a try.
"I'm always looking for something different," he said. "It works great in our rotation."
Frederick usually rotates between sunflowers, wheat and corn.
"This puts another broadleaf in," he said.
Frederick said the crop also has the benefit of being close to canola for sale price but the seed is cheaper, leading to a lower cost of production and potentially higher profit margins. He doesn't have to worry about getting stuck with leftover crop either because his contract is for all that he produces.
The harvest on Frederick's land started Monday with a test plot on a pea stubble field. The blacker soil left by the peas allowed the crop to emerge better than the rest of his crop planted on wheat and corn ground. As a no-till farmer finding land to plant the crop on will be his biggest challenge but one he expects to take on if his yields prove high enough.
In addition to Flasher in the southwest, about one-third was planted around Mott and there was some acreage around New Leipzig. In the northwest, there was some near Tioga and some in northeast Montana. Groves said all of it should be combined inside of a month.
The crop will be delivered to the Ray Farmers Union Elevator, likely in November. Agrisoma is working on adding other elevators to the delivery list for next year.
Canada-based Patterson Grain will sell it on the market and it will be processed in the U.S., Groves said.
One potential consumer, the U.S. Navy, is targeting carinata to help reach its goal of serving half of its energy needs with non-oil sources by 2020.
The carinata planted is expected to yield between 1,800 pounds and 1 ton per acre, according to Groves. That amounts to about 100 to 115 gallons of jet fuel per acre.
Groves said Agrisoma also is on its way to its goal of having farmers replant the crop again next year and adding more farmers to the planting list.
"We’ve had a fair amount more interest this year going into next year," he said.
The company has a goal of 50,000 acres planted next year. Groves said Agrisoma will likely start signing contracts in October through the end of November.