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June 13, 2011

One of the big debates with bio fuels is over the disruption to world food supply and the competition for product in the demanding fuel and food markets.  The example of corn in regards to ethanol is echoed from critic to critic.  For bio-diesel the past crops of choice were going to be food crops.  Sunflower, Soy, Canola, and others produce a nice clean oil yield with lots of trans fatty acids that are crucial for the production of quality bio diesel.  Learning lessons, from the ethanol/corn relationship, many in the bio diesel industry prefer not utilize stock that can be a food commodity.

Removing food from the list of potential crops can be a quite limiting factor.  Few acceptable crops are left and suitable for growing in Florida conditions.  One crop that would likely not have to endure political battles and special permitting is Camelina.  It is also one crop of a handful that has any scientific study or test plot data to examine.  Aside from food seed stock, Kenaf, or Jatropha – Camelina is the only crop that may be able to produce a enough oil per acre to be a viable fuel crop in the state of Florida.

The most promising numbers to date are from comparisons made to Canola by Dr. Wright.  Dr.  David Wright is a professor and researcher at the University of Florida’s Research and Education Center in Quincy Florida.  He is IAFS’s expert on Camelina and its potential as a fuel crop in Florida.  He offered information about both crops at a recent outreach programmed hosted in Bunnell.  Because of the similar requirements and characteristics of the two seed crops, Wright offered a glimpse at what might be.  Stressing that the Camelina numbers are from only one year of study and the fact that the two plants are ultimately different, Wright demonstrated the potential for Camelina and its viability as a fuel crop here in Florida.  It is cold tolerant allowing planting all the way up to the first week of December.  It is more resistant to insects and disease than some other crops.  It has the potential in some parts of Florida for two crops annually.  It may produce around 30% oil upon crushing and has similar if not better characteristics for fuel production as Canola.

Given the fact that Jatropha and Kenaf are not ideally suited for most of Florida, other possibilities are politically challenging for legal, security, or containment reasons; Camelina may be the best possibility for growing a lasting fuel seed stock crop for Florida and its regional neighbors.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    June 15, 2011 3:23 am

    That’s a great idea. While I have heard of biofuel from algae, I have never hear of getting it from camelina. That’s an interesting idea. My main concern would be finding out if it is as harsh on engines as ethanol.

    Also, its great that this is not a food based oil. Ethanol drives up corn prices which drives up food prices and has contributed to unrest around the globe.

    • June 15, 2011 6:34 pm

      Thanks for the comments Paul!

      To answer you question: Diesel engines were originally designed to run on Bio diesel. It just so happens that they can run on Petrol diesel as well. Bio diesel is cleaner and has been claimed to be more efficient and better for the life of a diesel engine.

      We try and learn from others mistakes in regards to ethanol. Part of the Solution is to not create more problems!

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