Tim MacDonald Havre Daily News email@example.com
The Hi-Line’s newest crop is in the fledgling stages, but it is proving to be one that can withstand the extremes of weather on the Montana plains. Logan Good and his father, Keith, planted 120 acres of camelina on their farm north of Great Falls and found that everything turned out just fine. “We planted at the end of March and early April this year,” Logan said. “We planted as a recrop over winter wheat stubble.” Keith had planted the crop as part of a program started by Great Northern Growers out of Sunburst so he had the expertise of other growers who had experimented with camelina. “We had to spray the grasses out before we planted, the camelina is so bushy that it canopies over most leafy weeds, but to avoid volunteer wheat and cheat grass (downy brogham) we used an herbicide.” Logan Good said. The herbicide usually used in this area, Maverick, was dangerous to the camelina, so they had to use another variety. “We sprayed just ahead of planting, we used an air drill just barely scratching the surface,” Good said. “We had good moisture in May and June, but then it turned hot,” he added. “The crop seemed to be fairly tolerant of the heat, which was supposed to be one of the good things about growing it here. It will put up with a wide variety of weather” According to studies from Purdue University, camelina can tolerate a wide spectrum of climate variables. It can even be broadcast on top of the snow in late winter, and makes an excellent follow- up crop for winter wheat. “We have had so much trouble with the summer weather we are pretty much only planting winter wheat,” Good said. “Next year we are planning on planting camelina on fallow and see how that works out.” There are a wide variety of markets for the camelina, but the most promising to Montana growers seems to be the bio-diesel and bio-lubricants industry, a plan is in the works to build a plant in the Havre area. The cold-press plant will separate the oil from the meal leaving some of the oil with the seed solids to give it more nutritional value. The oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are important to a low cholesterol diet, it is also a good source for vitamin E. The oil can also be used for cooking and in processed low-cholesterol foods. The Goods have Sold part of their oil to a cosmetic company for use in facial cream. The meal makes an excellent high protein feed, and the omega-3 benefits can be passed on through the animals that consume it, including farmed fish, according to the Purdue studies. “We are sending our seed down to Culbertson to be pressed,” Good said. “There seems to be a pretty good market for it, and it is bringing a good price right now, we are waiting to see what happens as far as bio-diesel and lubricants are concerned. We know they have planned a plant for the Havre area. That may be just what the doctor ordered as far as local farmers are concerned.” Good said he didn’t have much trouble harvesting the camelina. This can be tricky. If the pods become too dry, they can split and the seeds will simply blow away. “We had a little shattering, but not much. We had some trouble at first setting our combines to cut it, we didn’t have much information on that, but we worked it out,” Good said. The camelina seeds are fine as coarse grains of sand and take on a liquid quality in the grain hopper. All of the seams of the hopper have to be ducttaped to prevent leakage. “We had a little splashing, but it actually went smoothly for our first time. We didn’t lose any significant amount of seed,” he said. The Goods harvest averaged around 1,000 pounds per acre, about 20 bushels. The Purdue studies reported harvests of up to 1,600 pounds per bushel. The land where the camelina was grown this year will stand fallow next summer.