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Field Day unveils biomass crops, biodiesel production

The Central Lakes Agricultural Center in Staples is at the forefront of alternative fuels production. The fact was made clear at the Aug. 13 Energy/Alternative Fuels Field Day focusing on energy crops.

Bob Schafer, Central Lakes Ag Center director, coordinated a host of experts and tours at the 550-acre Ag Center northwest of town.

Of special interest was a 15-acre parcel featuring camelina, a low-input oilseed emerging as a biodiesel source grown on what is essentially wasteland. Ten inches of rainfall will bring a camelina crop to full yield maturity.

Likewise, on-farm biodsiesel production developed by Dr. Greg Mowry of the University of St. Thomas drew interest among guests from as far as North Dakota and the

metropolitan Twin Cities area.

Paul Aakre of the University of Minnesota-Crookston demonstrated farm-scale oil extraction using the Komet press and canola.

Other energy crop plots viewed at the Ag Center: switchgrass, big bluestem, intermediate wheatgrass, prairie cordgrass, native prairie blend, miscanthus, survivor false indigo, and sweet sorghum.

Central Lakes College plans to burn biodiesel fuel from the Ag Center in its vehicles operated in the Diesel Technology and Heavy Equipment Operation and Maintenance programs at Staples.