082615-nws-carinata-crop-3

Flasher area farmer Wes Frederick holds a handful of canarita seeds harvested from a test plot on his land. The crop, used to produced jet fuel, was planted and harvest by Agrisoma, based in Saskatoon, SK, Canada.

As a new crop being grown for jet fuel in North Dakota becomes more popular, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have finalized procedures to insure it.

For 2016 and succeeding crop years, carinata is only insurable under the federal crop insurance program by written agreement under canola and rapeseed crop provisions.

"I think they (USDA) recognized enough producers will likely grow it this year," said Dave Archer, agricultural economist at the USDA Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan.

Canadian seed producer Agrisoma Biosciences contracted about 6,000 acres to be planted with carinata in western North Dakota in 2015. The crop was insured for farmers at that time, too, but insurance agent confusion over how to insure it prompted USDA to issue a guidance for the future.

Agrisoma has a goal to reach 50,000 acres of carinata planted this year, said company representative Garret Groves while farmers were harvesting last year's crop.

Archer has overseen the growth of carinata at the Mandan research farm for three years as part of a U.S. Navy initiative to look for alternative sources of jet fuel. In that time, Archer said his yields were good, similar to those seen at the state-funded North Dakota State University Hettinger Research Extension Center, which also planted the crop.

For two out of the three years it was planted, Archer said carinata topped the list for yield of mustard-type crops planted. Because of the yields, he thinks planting of the crop could take off.

Archer said keeping seed costs low and finding additional herbicides for weed control will be important for the crop's success.

"I think the big hurdle is to get cost of production low enough," said Archer, adding the Navy will be looking for the fuel that it can get at the lowest cost.

Right now, wood-based fuel and fuel produced from garbage are leading interest, but Archer said feedstock needed for production for those fuels is somewhat limited.

"They need something that can be produced on a wider scale," he said.

And that's where oilseeds, such as carinata, come in.

Archer thinks Agrisoma's efforts to get producers growing the crop will be part of what could lead to its success.

Groves said 30 bushels per acre was the average yield seen early in last year's harvest. The carinata planted was expected to yield between 1,800 pounds and 1 ton per acre. That amounts to about 100 to 115 gallons of jet fuel per acre.

Archer said finding high-value co-products, such as animal feed, that can be produced alongside jet fuel using carinata could also help. The research farm did not conduct any feeding trials with the carinata it grew but Archer said it was high in protein.

Now that the research farm has finished with its field trials, it may continue to plant carinata as part of its field rotation research in an effort to give farmers an idea of where the crop might fit best into a crop rotation, according to Archer.

Last year's crop was delivered to the Ray Farmers Union Elevator. Agrisoma was working on adding other elevators to the delivery list for this year in an effort to make the crop even more attractive, Groves said.

(Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com)

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Business Reporter