Evaluation of Camelina sativa as an alternative seed crop and feedstock for biofuel and developing replacement heifers.

Final Report for SW07-049

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $155,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: Wyoming
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Bret Hess
University of Wyoming
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Project Information


Average yield of dryland camelina near Lingle, WY (371 lbs/ac) was less than in Montana (1,297 lbs/ac). Average winter wheat following camelina yielded 13% (MT) to 30% (WY) less than average yield of winter wheat following summer fallow. Camelina oil was utilized for on-farm biodiesel production and use in Otto, WY. Camelina coproducts (meal and crude glycerin) were determined to be suitable replacements for conventional corn-soybean meal supplements for developing replacement beef heifers. However, the economics for a single farm or small cooperative to adopt a dryland camelina-based production system are not compelling at this time.

Project Objectives:

Objective I: Evaluate field production of camelina in Montana and Wyoming.

Objective II: Evaluate camelina oil for production of biodiesel.

Objective III: Evaluate camelina co-products in diets of developing replacement beef heifers.

Objective IV. Evaluate the ecological impact and economic potential of: (a) replacing camelina for fallow; (b) utilizing camelina as a feedstock for biodiesel; and (c) including camelina co-products in diets of developing replacement beef heifers.


The commercial biodiesel industry is growing rapidly. From 2004 to 2005, biodiesel sales increased from 25 million gallons to nearly 75 million gallons. Agriculture will be an important partner with the biodiesel industry because vegetable oils and animal fats, as well as their derivatives, are attractive as alternative fuels, fuel-extenders and fuel-additives for diesel engines. Furthermore, the desire for personal energy independence and the promotion of cleaner energy sources also has led many farmers to consider oilseed crops as a source of biodiesel with its concomitant feed and fuel components.

Due to its relatively high oil content and possible adaptability to growing conditions throughout the High Plains, camelina has great potential as biofuel crop for producers in the High Plains region.
Previous studies indicated that environment has an impact on both camelina oil seed yield and oil seed quality (Matthaus and Zubr, 2000; Paul et al., 2000). Consequently, camelina should be grown in different environments/years to gain an accurate assessment of its potential in the High Plains region.

A biodiesel facility producing 1 million gallons of fuel per year is expected to generate 7,000 ton of meal and 100 ton of crude glycerin. There will be an obvious need to market these co-products of the biodiesel industry. Similarly, on-farm biodiesel production from locally grown camelina will generate the need to utilize camelina co-products.

The beef cattle feeding industry is a reasonable marketplace for camelina meal and crude glycerin because the meal is a good source of protein (Bonjean and Le Goffic, 1999) and PUFA (Hurtaud and Peyraud, 2007), and the main compound in crude glycerin, glycerol, has an energy value similar to starch (DeFrain et al., 2004). Increasing plasma PUFA status of beef females may be beneficial to reproduction (Hess et al., 2008). However, the oil in camelina meal contains approximately 2 to 5% erucic acid (22:1n-9; Putnam et al., 1993). Feeding 22:1n-9 could be a concern because 22:1n-9 has induced myocardial lipidosis in non-ruminants (Kramer et al., 1990). Camelina seeds also contain glucosinolates, which are compounds also present in rapeseed meal and that can decrease synthesis of thyroxine (T4) by the thyroid gland (Lardy and Kerley, 1994). The concentration of glucosinolates in camelina (22 µmol/g), however, is less than in rapeseed meal (118 µmol/g) (Lange et al., 1995).


Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Chengci Chen
  • Thomas Foulke
  • James Jacobs
  • Duane Johnson
  • Jim Kintz
  • James Krall
  • Charles Rife


Materials and methods:

Objective I: Evaluate production of camelina in Montana and Wyoming.


A crop rotation study was initiated in 2007 to compare a winter wheat-camelina continuous cropping scheme to the traditional winter wheat -fallow system. Winter wheat was planted in late September 2007, and camelina was planted in early April 2008 at the Central Agricultural Research Center, Montana State University. The study was a randomized complete block design with four replications. The experiment was repeated in each year for three years in 2008, 2009 and 2010 crop years (Table 1). Yield, protein or oil content of wheat and camelina were measured in each year.

Small samples were taken every 15 days to determine growth patterns for the crop, and detailed notes were taken at bud initiation, flowering, seed fill and maturity. These baseline data of phenology, when combined with climate and soil data from the environments, were used to model the growth and development of camelina.


Starting in 2008, Dr. Krall was responsible for planting 10 acres of dryland camelina at SAREC to evaluate cropping systems impacts when camelina is included in a crop rotation. A winter wheat-camelina (camelina replacing fallow) rotation scheme was compared to the traditional winter wheat-fallow system in large block replicated trials. The experimental design consisted of four replications with each treatment block (plot) encompassing approximately 0.5 acres. The experiment was repeated in each year of the first three years of the funding period (Table 1). It is to be continued for a fourth year (2011). In 2011, a 12 treatment N/P fertilizer trial has been imposed on a portion of each camelina block.

Dr. Krall worked with the Farm Manager to identify an appropriate site. All sowing took place using conventional dryland farming equipment. Planting and harvest dates are listed in Table 2. Yields sampling was accomplished by harvesting approximately 7,500 square feet of each plot using a small plot combine.

In addition to reporting this work, which is a component of the Western SARE project, we will report results from four other trials because they help to explain the conclusion to date pertaining to the outlook for camelina production in Wyoming. Three trials utilized supplemental water application, and the fourth is a rainfed trial from north central Wyoming. This rainfed trial followed perennial pasture.

Objective II: Evaluate camelina oil for production of biodiesel.

Camelina seed was purchased from four producers in Carbon and Niobrara Counties, Wyoming. The seed was transported to Chambers, Nebraska on September 22, 2007. Camelina oil was separated from the seed using mechanical extraction, and biodiesel was produced at a BlueSun facility in New Mexico. Additionally, camelina oil extracted from seed produced from the Wyoming trials was processed into camelina biodiesel on a farm in Otto, WY. This biodiesel was tested for quality on the farm and then was used in the cooperator’s farm equipment.

Objective III: Evaluate camelina co-products in diets of developing replacement beef heifers.

Camelina biodiesel co-products generated from seeds processed commercially were transported to the Laramie Research & Extension Center in the fall of 2007. Dr. Hess and his graduate student conducted a two-year study to evaluate the use of camelina co-products in diets of developing replacement beef heifers. The two-year randomized complete block designed experiment in which Angus Gelbvieh rotationally crossed heifers were sorted by initial BW (yr 1, n = 99; 300 ± 9 kg; yr 2, n = 105; 294 ± 8 kg) into BW blocks (blocks 1 to 5 in yr 1; blocks 6 to 10 in yr 2) and included randomly assigning 1 of 3 experimental supplements to 1 of 3 pens (6 to 7 heifers/pen) within each BW block.

Diets were formulated to be isonitrogenous and to provide 12.6% CP of dietary DM. Heifers had limited access to bromegrass hay, which was offered at 7.03 and 7.34 kg•heifer-1•d-1 (as-fed) from day 0 through 30 and day 31 through 60, respectively. Heifers were offered one of three experimental supplements: a control supplement consisting of 50% finely ground corn and 50% soybean meal (as-fed); 100% mechanically extracted camelina meal; or a crude glycerin supplement consisting of 50% soybean meal, 33% finely ground corn, 15% crude glycerin and 2% corn gluten meal (as-fed). Supplements were offered daily at 0.33% of average BW for 60 days (as-fed; 0.95 and 0.99 kg•heifer-1•d-1 during day 0 through 30 and day 31 through 60, respectively). Supplements were provided at 0800 and completely consumed within five minutes of being offered. Hay was offered immediately after supplements were consumed. On the next morning, any hay remaining in the bunks was removed and weighed before offering the supplements. In year 1, heifers had free access to water and trace mineralized salt (Ultra Balance Spring & Summer Mineral, Hergert Milling Inc., Scottsbluff, NE; guaranteed analysis, as a percentage of DM: NaCl, 14 to 16; Ca, 18 to 20; P, 8; Mg, 2.5; K, Co, Cu, I, Mn, Zn and Se, < 1) throughout the experiment. Based on average supplement consumption in year 1, the same mineralized salt was included at 6% (as-fed) of the dietary supplement in year 2.
Heifer body weight was recorded as the average pre-feeding live weights taken on two consecutive day at the beginning (day 0 and 1), middle (day 30 and 31) and end (day 60 and 61) of the experimental feeding period. Preprandial blood samples were also taken from the jugular vein before treatments were applied (day 0) and on days 30 and 60 of the feeding period. Blood samples were placed on ice immediately after collection and then were stored under refrigeration for 12 hours. Samples were centrifuged and the resulting serum or plasma was decanted and stored at frozen until laboratory analyses. Plasma samples were analyzed for long-chain fatty acids. Serum samples were analyzed for glucose, beta hydroxybutyrate, insulin and thyroid hormones (T3 and T4).

Objective IV. Evaluate the ecological impact and economic potential of: (a) replacing camelina for fallow; (b) utilizing camelina as a feedstock for biodiesel; and (c) including camelina co-products in diets of developing replacement beef heifers.

The majority of the economics portion for the project uses a systems approach to try to understand how a biodiesel production scheme would fit into a dryland wheat farm. Budgeting software was used to evaluate the cost and returns of growing camelina in place of fallow and then taken several steps further to investigate the pressing costs, the substitution of camelina meal for other grains as a feeding supplement for cattle and the costs of producing biodiesel from the oil. An additional economical analysis was conducted using prices actually paid for supplemental ingredients in the beef heifer feeding experiment.

Research results and discussion:

Objective I: Evaluate production of camelina in Montana and Wyoming.


The crop rotations included two phases; the first phase involved either fallow or camelina and the second phase involved winter wheat. Although the experiment was initiated in 2007, and the winter wheat and camelina were planted in September 2007 and April 2008, respectively, the crop yields in 2008 were considered as baseline yields and did not reflect rotational effects. Therefore, the 2008 crop yields were not included in this final report. Only 2009 and 2010 data are reported.

In Phase I of the crop rotations, the fallow treatment did not produce yield, but the camelina produced seed. The mean yield was 969 and 1,088 kg ha-1 grain yield in 2009 and 2010, respectively. They were not statistically different. The mean yield for camelina was 1,144 kg ha-1 over the two years following winter wheat (Table 3). The oil content of camelina was 347 g kg-1 in 2009 and 339 g kg-1 in 2010, respectively. The average oil yield of camelina was 392 kg ha-1.

In Phase II of the crop rotations, winter wheat yield was 1,933 and 3,082 kg ha-1, respectively. Winter wheat yield was greater in 2010 than in 2009 due to the greater rainfall in the summer of 2010. Winter wheat following fallow and cemelina yielded 2,853 kg ha-1 and 2,487 kg ha-1, respectively. In other words, winter wheat in rotation with camelina reduced winter wheat yield by 366 kg ha-1 (13%), but the system gained 1,144 kg ha-1 of camelina compared to fallow-winter wheat.

Protein content of winter wheat was greater in 2009 than in 2010 due to less summer rainfall and lower grain yield in 2009. Protein content of winter wheat grain did not differ regardless following fallow or camelina.

Camelina adapted to Montana environment very well; average camelina yield was around 1,100 kg ha-1 during 2009 and 2010 crop year. However, the information obtained from this project was not sufficient to model camelina growth and to predict camelina adaptation to other soil and climate environments.

In this study, a bundle sample was hand-cut to estimate the harvest index of camelina and winter wheat. The crop residue (straw) yields of winter wheat and camelina were estimated from the grain yield and harvest index data (Table 4).

In Phase I of the crop rotations, the fallow treatment did not produce any crop residue, but the camelina produced 2,317 kg ha-1 residue that was returned to soil after crop harvest.

In Phase II of the crop rotations, the winter wheat in fallow-winter wheat treatment produced 3,377 kg ha-1 residue, while the winter wheat in camelina-winter wheat treatment produced 2,920 kg ha-1 residue.

Camelina residue can stand and cover the soil surface throughout the winter and summer season, and no soil erosion incident was observed. Comparing the two crop rotation systems, the fallow-winter wheat system had 3,377 kg ha-1 total residue returned to the soil, and the camelina-winter wheat system had 5,237 kg ha-1 total residue (camelina + winter wheat) return to the soil. Therefore, from the point of total organic matter return to soil, the camelina-winter wheat annual cropping is superior to the fallow-winter wheat system. The soil condition index is under evaluation.


There was visually and quantitatively a dramatic impact from cropping camelina in place of fallow at SAREC. Mean yields of camelina after wheat were far below economic viability in 2008 and 2009 (Table 5). Although grasshoppers no doubt contributed to the low yield of 92 lb/acre in 2009, it is believed that, although there was some recovery from the long term drought, lack of soil moisture was a primary factor. For the camelina season (roughly the first six months of the year, January 1 to July 30) precipitation was 45, 52, 70, 93 and 140% of the 30 year mean of 9.5 inches for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. Camelina yield in 2010 improved substantially to over 700 lb/acres but was still below the anticipated threshold of 800 lbs/acre. This no doubt was from the increased precipitation during the first half of 2010 which exceeded the long term (30 year) average precipitation by 40%.

As a consequence of the level of precipitation, wheat yields following camelina averaged 70% of those after fallow in 2009 and 2010 (Table 6). However, in 2010 yields were only marginally reduced after camelina compared to fallow (24.1 vs 25.6 bu/acre). This indicates that in some years camlina may replace fallow without harming wheat yields.

In the ancillary trials, the Spotted Horse WY rainfed trial with mean yields of 334 lb/acre (Table 7) produced similar yields as the SAREC trials in 2008 and 2009. Although weather records were not kept at this location, it is known that much of north central Wyoming had limited precipitation during the first half of 2009, with the Sheridan WY airport reporting less than 9 inches during this period.

Camelina yields under sprinkler irrigation were more promising, with yields averaging 1,000 lb/acre (Table 8) in trial of commercially available varieties. It is worth noting that at this location, a neighboring trial containing experimental lines had average yields that were a third higher, indicating that varieties with substantially higher yield potential are on the horizon. Experimental lines in the advanced experimental line nursery topped out at 2,300 lb/acre. It is also worth noting that camelina at maturity can be impacted by wind and water damage, as was the case at the LaGrange location. Shattering just prior to harvest is believed to have been caused by the combination of a final irrigation followed by high winds. Another factor was moderate hail during flowering, which caused stem breakage and damage to flowering heads. Shattering at maturity was observed in a 2008 trial not reported here due to high winds with rain, so shatter resistance should be considered as an objective in a breeding program.

Our findings to date suggest that camelina is best suited to limited and full irrigation in SE Wyoming. With the drought appearing to have moderated, we look forward to the final year of experiments in 2011 on dryland, because under conditions of higher precipitation, as was the case in 2010, production of camelina in place of fallow should prove to be more attractive. To date, during the first half of 2011, precipitation has been higher than the long term average. It is anticipated, after 2011, that it can be reported that camelina may be able to replace follow without harming wheat yields in two out of four years.

Objective II: Evaluate camelina oil for production of biodiesel.

Camelina biodiesel produced on the farm in Otto, WY tested similar to spent vegetable oil that the producer has been using for the past several years. Furthermore, the cooperator’s farm equipment fueled by camelina biodiesel performed similarly to when the same equipment is fueled by petroleum diesel or on-farm other biodiesel.

Objective III: Evaluate camelina co-products in diets of developing replacement beef heifers.

Dietary treatment did not affect forage (P = 0.19) or total dry matter intake (P = 0.09), body weight (P ? 0.44) or average daily during the first (P = 0.59) or second (P = 0.63) 30-day period (Table 9). Supplements were completely consumed within five minutes after being offered. The lack of differences in forage and total dry matter intake and growth performance among heifers fed control, camelina meal and crude glycerin supplements suggests that, in addition to being formulated to be isonitrogenous, the supplements provided the same amount of energy.

Treatment x period interactions were only detected for plasma concentrations of cis-9, trans-11-CLA (P = 0.037), 22:1n-9 (P = 0.001), 18:1trans-11 (P = 0.001), 18:1trans-12 (P = 0.005), 18:1trans-13 (P = 0.001), 18:1cis-10 (P = 0.023), 18:1cis-11 (P = 0.001), and 18:1cis-12 (P < 0.001). Except for cis-9, trans-11-CLA and 18:1trans-11, treatment x period interactions can be explained by the fact that none of those fatty acids were detected in plasma samples before initiating the experimental feeding period.

The plasma concentrations of 18:1cis-9 (P = 0.025), 18:2n-6 (P = 0.009), and 18:3n-3 (P = 0.012) were greater in heifers fed camelina meal than they were in heifers fed control and crude glycerin rations (Table 10). This response was expected because heifers fed camelina meal consumed a supplement with greater concentrations of these fatty acids than did control and crude glycerin. Fatty acids concentration of the crude glycerin was 0.26% of dry matter, which resulted in similar fatty acids concentrations between the control and crude glycerin supplements.

Camelina meal used in the present study contained 2.58% of total fatty acid as 22:1n-9. Heifers fed camelina meal had greater (P = 0.001; 0.01 mg of 22:1n-9/g of freeze dried plasma) concentrations of 22:1n-9 compared with heifers fed the control or glycerin supplements (0 mg of 22:1n-9/g of freeze dried plasma); this was expected because the control and glycerin supplements did not contain any 22:1n-9. However, as a percentage of total fatty acids found in plasma of heifers fed camelina meal (23.9 mg of total fatty acids/g of freeze dried plasma), 22:1n-9 represented only 0.04%, suggesting that small amounts of 22:1n-9 were available for absorption in the small intestine.

Dietary treatment x sampling period interactions were not detected for serum concentrations of T4 (P = 0.87) or T3 (P = 0.17). Serum concentrations of T3 increased 30 day after feeding (0.86, 0.98, and 0.92 ng/mL for d 0, 30, and 60 respectively; SEM = 0.02), whereas T4 only increased at day 60 (38.9, 39.0, and 43.8 ng/mL for d 0, 30, and 60, respectively; SEM = 1.1). The changes in thyroid hormones between sampling periods in the present experiment seem to be reflective of the magnitude of change observed for average daily gain between the first (1.12 kg/d) and second (0.87 kg/d) 30-day feeding periods.

Heifers fed camelina meal had greater (P = 0.045) average concentrations of T3 in serum compared with heifers fed either the control or glycerin supplement; serum concentrations of T3 did not differ (P = 0.990) between the control and glycerin treatments (Table 11). This affect may be related to the fact that heifers fed camelina meal had greater concentrations of UFA and cis- and trans-isomers in plasma compared with heifers fed the control and glycerin supplements.
Neither dietary treatment x sampling period (P = 0.606, 0.356 and 0.395; data not shown) nor dietary treatment effects (P = 0.585, 0.440 and 0.461; Table 11) were detected for serum concentrations of glucose, insulin or BHBA. A period effect was detected for serum concentrations of glucose (P < 0.001), insulin (P < 0.001), and BHBA (P < 0.001), respectively. Serum glucose concentrations on day 30 were less than day 0 (63.8 ± 0.55 vs. 67.8 ± 0.75 mg/dL, respectively; P < 0.001) and day 60 (68.1 ± 0.57 mg/dL; P < 0.001), but did not differ (P = 0.782) between day 0 and 60. Serum concentrations of insulin were greater on day 60 (0.15 ± 0.01 ng/mL) than d 0 (0.08 ± 0.004 ng/mL; P < 0.001) and day 30 (0.10 ± 0.008 ng/mL; P < 0.001), but did not differ (P = 0.171) between day 0 and 30. Serum concentrations of BHBA on day 30 were less than on d 0 (0.13 ± 0.003 vs. 0.16 ± 0.006 µmol/L, respectively; P = 0.001) and day 60 (0.14 ± 0.004 µmol/L; P = 0.030); however, serum concentrations of BHBA were similar (P = 0.117) between day 0 and 60 of the feeding period.

Although insulin concentrations in the present study only increased at day 60, it is possible that insulin activity increased due to supplementation, which might have stimulated cellular uptake of glucose and inhibited hepatic production of BHBA on day 30. This rationale is supported by greater average daily gain for heifers during the first 30 days vs. the second 30 days. Perhaps heifers developed some insulin resistance as they accumulated fat, which may explain the increase in serum concentrations of insulin, glucose and BHBA on day 60 and the decreased average for the second 30 day of the feeding period.

Data presented in Table 12 illustrate that dietary treatment did not affect heifers detected in estrus before timed AI (P = 0.825), pregnancy rate of those bred by heat (P = 0.965), overall pregnancy rate to AI (P = 0.577) and final pregnancy rate (P = 0.376). In an extensive review of the literature, Hess et al. (2008) concluded that overall pregnancy rates for heifers fed supplemental fat increased by 15% compared with heifers fed supplements without fat. Although not statistically significant, the 17% improvement in final pregnancy rate observed for heifers fed camelina meal vs. heifers fed the control supplement was consistent with literature results summarized by Hess et al. (2008). In our study, the magnitude of difference in overall pregnancy rates between heifers fed supplements with or without fat can be attributed to the greater (P = 0.046) pregnancy rates to timed-AI of heifers fed camelina meal.

Objective IV: Evaluate the ecological impact and economic potential of: (a) replacing camelina for fallow; (b) utilizing camelina as a feedstock for biodiesel; and (c) including camelina co-products in diets of developing replacement beef heifers.

The breakeven operating yield for camelina was estimated to be 521 lbs/ac. Therefore, it would be difficult to even cover operating costs in eastern Wyoming unless the price for camelina was to rise. The greater yields observed in the Montana trials would make camelina a more attractive replacement for fallow in that region of the High Plains. Nevertheless, the current cost of on-farm biodiesel production from camelina is likely cost prohibitive at $4.89/gallon.
The crude protein content of crude glycerin is nearly zero. Thus, whenever glycerol replaces corn grain, additional protein should be added to balance protein content of the diet. Inclusion of crude glycerin and corn gluten meal at 15 and 2% (as fed basis) of the supplements, respectively, resulted in equal daily cost between the control and glycerin treatments (Table 13). This occurred despite crude glycerin being purchased at approximately $0.03/kg more than it should have been worth according to estimates of Hess (2007). Using the actual cost of the camelina meal purchased for this experiment, daily cost was $0.05/heifer less for camelina meal than the control and glycerin treatments.

Heifers fed crude glycerin had similar cost per pregnant heifer ($25.1/pregnant heifer) compared with heifers fed the control supplement ($25.6/pregnant heifer). Heifers fed camelina meal had the least cost per pregnant heifer ($16.0/pregnant heifer). Therefore, using prices actually paid for supplemental ingredients in this experiment, camelina biodiesel co-products are economically feasible when compared with feeding supplements containing corn and soybean meal.

Research conclusions:

Camelina is a marginal dryland crop for eastern Wyoming, both in terms of yield and economic feasibility. The Montana location of this project is a more suitable place to grow camelina because dryland yields are great enough to make growing the crop economically feasible. Camelina biodiesel is similar to other on-farm biodiesels. Likewise, camelina co-products (meal and crude glycerin) are suitable replacements for conventional corn-soybean meal supplements when offered to replacement beef heifers for 60 days before estrus synchronization. Although on-farm camelina biodiesel production is cost prohibitive, camelina biodiesel co-products should be economically feasible supplemental ingredients for developing replacement heifers.

In the short run, this project has increased producer awareness and knowledge as producers attended field days held at Research & Extension Centers in Montana and Wyoming, as well as at cooperating farms and ranches. Producers gained additional knowledge as they witnessed how to grow and harvest camelina, how to press camelina seeds and use camelina oil to produce biodiesel, and how ruminant livestock would respond to feeding camelina co-products. It is unknown whether or not there has been any farmer adoption of the dryland camelina farm system evaluated herein. However, with commodity prices for more traditional cropping patterns at historical highs, it seems less likely that the adoption has occurred for a new system such as outlined here. The economics for change are not compelling at this time. Nevertheless, preliminary results of the feeding trial have been shared with FDA and a coalition of businesses that seek to have crude glycerin and camelina meal approved as feed ingredients for livestock. The FDA has now approved up to 10% camelina in the ration of ruminant livestock rations. It is therefore anticipated that feeding of camelina co-products will increase in areas where crop yields are sufficient to make camelina economically viable for farmers.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Annual field days were held at the Central Agricultural Research Center and James C. Hageman Sustainable Research & Extension Center each year since 2008. Between 100 and 150 producers attended the field days every year. Preliminary results also were presented as a poster at the Western SARE subregional conference held in Cheyenne. The poster remains on display for public viewing at SAREC. An additional on-farm workshop was held on a cooperator’s farm and ranch during the last year of the project. Thirty participants learned about farming camelina, producing biodiesel and feeding camelina to ruminant livestock. Results of this project were also presented at several regional, national and international conferences.

Presentations from this project and its derivatives were given to farmers, agricultural consultants, academics and government representatives. It is hoped that these individuals have come away from these presentations with a greater understanding of the benefits and costs of on-farm biodiesel production from camelina.

Popular Press: Foulke, Thomas. 2010. Research Investigates Economics of Biodiesel Production From Dryland Camelina. Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Volume 22, Number 29. December 4, 2010.

Peer-reviewed Articles: Foulke, Thomas, Milton Geiger and Bret Hess. An Analysis of On-Farm Feed and Fuel From Dryland Camelina. To The Journal of American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. Submitted June 2011.

P. Moriel, V. Nayigihugu, B. I. Cappellozza, E. P Gonçalves, J. M. Krall, T. Foulke, K. M. Cammack, and B. W. Hess. Camelina meal and crude glycerin as feed supplements for developing replacement beef heifers. J ANIM SCI August 5, 2011 jas.2010-3630; published ahead of print August 5, 2011, doi:10.2527/jas.2010-3630

Foulke, Thomas and Bret Hess. 2011. Dryland Camelina, a Systems Approach to On-Farm Feed and Fuel: Preliminary Results. In Proceedings of and presented to the 18th International Farm Management Congress. Methven, New Zealand, March 25, 2011.

Presentations: Chen, C., K. Neill, J. Heser, and B. Hess. Cropping systems for new oilseed feedstock production in wheat-based production system in the Northern Great Plains of USA. BIT’s 1st Annual World Congress of Bioenergy, 25-30rd April 2011, Dalian, China.
oulke, Thomas, Milton Geiger and Bret Hess. 2011 A Scaled, Systems Approach to On-Farm Feed and Fuel for Dryland Camelina. First World Bio-Energy Conference. Dalian, China, April 26, 2011.

Foulke, Thomas. 2010. Economic Considerations for an on-farm Bio-diesel Production System from Camelina. For the UW Powell R&amp;E Field Day event, Powell, Wyoming. July 8, 2010.

P. Moriel, B.I. Cappellozza, V. Nayigihugu, K.M. Cammack and B.W. Hess. 2010. Camelina meal and crude glycerin as feed supplements for developing replacement beef heifers. ADSA-ASAS-PSA-AMPA-CSAS-WSASAS Joint Meeting. July 15 – 19, Denver, CO.

Chen, C. 2010. Production of camelina as biofuel feedstock in a wheat-based production system in central Montana. 22nd AAIC Annual Meeting, September 18 – 22, 2010, Fort Collins, CO.

Foulke, Thomas. 2010 Economic Considerations for an on-farm Bio-diesel Production System from Camelina. For UW Cooperative Extension Service, In-Depth Training. November 3, 2010.

P. Moriel, P. L. Price, V. Nayigihugu, and B. W. Hess. 2009. Camelina meal and crude glycerin as feed supplements for developing replacement beef heifers. ASAS Western Section Meeting, June 16-18, Fort Collins, CO.

Thesis: Philipe Moriel. 2010. Camelina Co-Products as Feed Supplements for Developing Replacement Beef Heifers. Univ. Wyoming. May, 2010. Laramie, WY.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Results of the crop trials and feeding portions of the project will be reported separately by other project participants. This section focuses on the economic feasibility of biodiesel production as based on a single producer of a medium-sized dryland farm in the region.

Figure 1. Camelina systems approach diagram.

Figure 1 shows a schematic of the systems approach developed for this project. Traditional economic analyses of agricultural enterprises often consists of an enterprise budget or budgets to analyze the cost and returns from specific activities. Our approach is similar to a “whole farm” approach, in that parts of this enterprise are dependent on other enterprises. The system starts with planting camelina seed. This is followed by harvesting, crushing the seed and feeding the meal. The resultant oil is made into biodiesel.

This is where the systems approach becomes appropriate. In the traditional view of a whole farm system, a fixed resource (land) is usually the driving constraint. However, in the production system described here, land is not constrained. It was initially thought that the number of cattle on feed would dictate the number of acres planted, due the large amount of meal produced. However, further analysis shows that the system is more constrained by the size of the press used to extract the oil. Not only is the size of the press important, but the amount of oil produced will dictate the scale of the biodiesel production system. Therefore, it is also important to consider fuel needs. All these questions need to be answered prior to making investments in production equipment.

For this project, costs and returns are evaluated for three different enterprises on a model 1,780 hectare (4,400 acre) dry land farm, hypothetically located in the northern Great Plains region of the U.S., nominally in the states of either Wyoming or Montana (the project study region). The farm consists mainly of wheat/fallow dry land crop land. Cropping cost and returns are evaluated using a spreadsheet program developed by Montana State University Extension (Montana, 2010) which analyzes tillage types and cropping mix. It was decided to substitute 100 acres of camelina for fallow land in the crop system. The price of diesel fuel was updated to reflect the current price of $0.74/l ($2.80/gallon) (EIA, 2010). The yield for camelina was adjusted for the estimated average yield from project field trials, 561kg/ha (500lbs/ acre). And the price of camelina was set at the reported 2008 average Montana price of $0.202kg ($9.18/cwt) (USDA, 2008). All other parameters in the spreadsheet remain unaltered.

Costs and returns from the budget are used as an input in another spreadsheet we call the ‘Camelina Calculator’. This spreadsheet uses economic information from the three enterprises (growing, feeding and biodiesel production) and is the major output of this portion of the project. The spreadsheet is designed to have the capability to be adapted to other types of oilseed crops as well.

Once the yield information is in the calculator, production estimates for oil and meal are calculated. This information, in turn is used in conjunction with prices for other types of comparable meal substitutes to generate a range of alternative feed costs to compare with the costs of growing camelina. Cost comparisons with camelina are important because the market for this oil seed meal is not well developed. Three different comparisons are used: a substitute ration of one-half corn, one-half soybean meal, linseed meal, and an estimate of growing and pressing costs for camelina.

Approximately 100 heifers each year were fed a camelina meal supplement as part of the project for two years. The results of this feeding trial will be reported separately. It should be noted that until November 2009, FDA regulations restricted camelina meal supplemental feeding to 2% of a dry matter ration for cattle due to the high level of erucic acid (4 to 5%) contained in camelina (Pilgeram et al, 2007). That restriction has now been raised to 10% based on further research (FDA, 2009).

Pressing costs are estimated by using nameplate data from the press. The press used in this project is a Kern Kraft, KK40F with a nameplate throughput capacity of 40 kg (88 lbs) per hour and a daily capacity of 960 kg (2,112 lbs). Current electricity costs are estimated at $0.09/ kwh. Daily electricity consumption is estimated to be 38.4 kwh (24 hrs X 1.6 kwh).

Biodiesel production equipment costs were obtained from various internet sources. The sources are listed next to each item in the calculator so prices can easily be updated. The list of production equipment was derived from Kemp (2006) for a 189 liter (50 gal), two-tank batch system. Kemp uses an innovative system of electric water heaters to keep the oil at temperature. A ten percent contingency (of total capital costs) cost is added into the total cost of production equipment. A five percent annual maintenance fee is also included.

It is assumed that the farm will have a diesel storage tank. However, additional tanks would be needed for raw oil, blending and blended oil. The purchase of two 3,785 liter (1,000 gallon) poly tanks and a 1,893 liter (500 gallon) poly tank is therefore included. No provision for meal storage was made. It is assumed that the producer would have sufficient storage capacity for the meal produced.

Labor costs are not included in this system. The Montana State University crop budget calculator assumes labor compensation as part of a return to labor and management based on net returns to the enterprise. We continue with that convention for the biodiesel and feeding enterprises. However, we also recognize that there will be considerable time and variations in time input among operators for both start-up and production. Labor for this system in assumed to be all operator labor. No hired labor is included.

The production of biodiesel involves the use of some hazardous and explosive chemicals. These include methanol and caustic soda. Quality control of the product is also essential to safeguard equipment. Therefore testing and first aid equipment costs are built into the model.


The results of the yield portion of the calculator base model are shown in Table 1. This part of the calculator uses the yield information to show how much meal and oil might be produced from a given acreage. Additionally, the feeding rate and annual meal usage are also shown.

Table 1. Camelina calculator base model annual yield and feeding results.

Table 2 shows the summary results for the base model calculator. The base model assumes a petroleum diesel cost of $0.734 per liter ($2.78 per gallon) and that the biodiesel would be blended into a B20 (20 percent biodiesel) blend for on-farm use. Growing costs are based on an average yield of 561 kilograms per hectare (500 pounds per acre), as found in the experimental trials for southeastern Wyoming. In this scenario, the breakeven operating yield for camelina would be 585 kilograms per hectare (521 pounds per acre). Therefore it would be difficult to even cover operating costs unless the price of camelina were to rise some. This means that camelina is a marginal dryland crop for eastern Wyoming. Dryland yields are reported to be somewhat higher in Montana and so this would be a more likely place to grow this crop.

Annual pressing costs include only the cost of electricity. The press itself draws 1.6 kw (kilowatts) of electricity but would have to run for 15.5 days to crush the entire years’ crop. However, it is likely that the farmer would not want to press the crop all at once, since the batch process of making biodiesel is time consuming and would require about 32 days to completely process. Additionally, more tanks would be needed to hold all the oil at once.

Total equipment costs for an operation of this scale are estimated to be $19,443. $12,500 of this is for the press alone. The cost of the press is another reason why the press is the determining factor in sizing the operation. This project evaluates an on-farm system for a single producer, but the high cost of an oil seed press makes some sort of multiple ownership method appear to be a more viable alternative.

Table 2. Camelina calculator base model summary results.

When evaluating the biodiesel production system, the authors found it useful to present the costs in two different ways: total costs, including both ownership costs and operating costs of growing camelina and biodiesel production. And operating cost of growing only, though to be conservative, ownership costs for the biodiesel equipment are still included, Table 3. Capital equipment is depreciated using 20-year straight-line depreciation. The cost of oil, chemicals, depreciation and annual maintenance are added together to obtain the cost of production (Table 3). Oil is by far the most expensive input.

Avoided costs are those of the amount of feed and petroleum diesel that the farmer does not have to buy. These values are shown in the middle of Table 2. At current diesel fuel prices, the producer would not have to buy 6,018 liters (1,590 gallons) of diesel fuel at cost of $4,417. The larger savings would come from the avoided cost of feed. The producer would not have to purchase $7,763 by feeding camelina meal, assuming a 0.91 kilogram ration of one-half corn, one-half soybean meal at $0.52 per kilogram. These two values added together result in total estimated savings of $12,153. Thus the higher value in the process with the current price structure is from the avoided costs of livestock feed. In other words, from a production standpoint it is more accurate think of this system as being centered on feed production with biodiesel as a by- or “co-product”.

Total annual costs are estimated by adding growing costs ($9,435) and biodiesel production costs ($7,763) for a total cost of $17,213 (bottom of Table 2). Subtracting the avoided costs of fuel and feed results in the net overall savings/cost of the production system (-$4,998). Add to this the assumption that labor compensation is in the form of returns to management and labor as a part of net revenue, and the picture looks even bleaker. This number shows that the biodiesel production system, as outlined here, is not economically feasible at the current price petroleum diesel.

Table 3. Camelina production costs, base model.

However, when evaluated from an “operating costs only” perspective (last two columns of Table 3 and bottom right hand corner of Table 2), the total is $1,171. This is because the ownership costs of growing camelina are not accounted for from this perspective. Some farmers choose to not account for these costs in their calculations. The authors do not endorse this view, but we present these numbers here for those who would like to see them.


This project has investigated the costs and returns of a biodiesel production system from camelina in a western United States, dryland crop setting. The results of our study found that yields for dryland camelina in southeastern Wyoming are not economically feasible for biodiesel production at the current petroleum diesel price of $0.734 per liter ($2.78 per gallon). Higher yields reported for parts of Montana appear to be more viable. Future work with the spreadsheet calculator will explore this avenue of research. Our results are preliminary, but given the results obtained so far, it appears that, on-farm biodiesel production would break even at about of $1.56 per liter ($5.92 per gallon) of petroleum diesel. Additionally, should the price of petroleum diesel increase significantly, it is reasonable to expect that the cost of other inputs, especially fertilizer would increase as well, making profitability for this system a moving target.

Important insight has also been gained in several areas. The per liter (operating only) cost of $0.36 ($1.36 per gallon) could lead some to think that biodiesel production is profitable given today’s diesel price. However, when ownership costs are included, this price is shown not to be profitable.

The key scale component of this system is the size of the press. Given the low yields obtained, it could be argued that higher yields might increase profitability in the enterprise. However, higher yields would also require a larger herd (or a market) and more importantly a larger processing facility and more storage (meal and oil and biodiesel) capacity. Given that the press currently needs to run for 15 days to crush the crop at current yields, and that batch size limitations mean that it takes 32 days to convert the oil to biodiesel, there are some time and labor considerations that could also come into play to limit the enterprise viability. Additionally, the higher yields needed to justify the cost of the press, could push the total amount of oil and thus biodiesel (at a 20 percent blend) beyond what a single producer might be able to use. Further research would be needed to substantiate this.

Since the current market for camelina is thin (low trading volumes and few trading hubs), it is important to have sufficient livestock resources (or access to them) to dispose of the meal, although this could change if the market matures. Our calculations show that at current prices and from a value perspective, camelina meal, and its role in the capital flows of the system, plays a more central role than that of the oil.

The system designed for our project requires a significant investment of financial resources ($19,443), particularly the press. Informal conversations with a rural banker indicate that this type of enterprise would be difficult to finance under traditional means. Therefore having sufficient financial resources on-hand would be required.

Given this situation, individual on-farm biodiesel production looks problematic from an economic perspective. Further research is needed, but the authors suspect that some sort of group ownership arrangement of at least pressing capacity seems more reasonable with respect to economies of size. This would reduce individuals’ capital costs and, should the market for camelina develop further, provide additional marketing opportunities for both meal and oil.

The production of biodiesel would require considerable manual skills by the operator. Our investigations have shown that it is possible to make high quality biodiesel for on-farm use, but it is more time consuming then one can be led to believe. Those wishing to pursue this option need to have sufficient skills to be comfortable with plumbing and electrical work as well as mixing chemicals (some caustic or flammable).

Farmer Adoption

It is unknown whether or not there has been any farmer adoption of this system. However, with commodity prices for more traditional cropping patterns at historical highs, it seems less likely that the adoption has occurred for a new system such as outlined here. The economics for change are not compelling at this time. Nevertheless, camelina adapts very well to the Montana environment. Farmer adoption of this crop is dependent on the market demand and the price of camelina. Currently, camelina contract price is $0.33 kg-1, which is not competitive to lentil price of $0.55 kg-1. Thus, even most Montana farmers chose lentil over camelina as rotation crop for winter wheat. If camelina co-products are available then they can certainly replace conventional corn-soybean meal supplements in diets of developing replacement beef heifers. Our results indicate that the cost per pregnancy for heifers fed the crude glycerin or the control supplement was similar, whereas the cost per pregnancy for heifers fed camelina meal was the least.

With rising concern over increasing and volatile energy prices, the desire for personal energy independence and the promotion of cleaner energy sources may lead many farmers to consider oilseed crops as a source of biodiesel with its concomitant feed and fuel components. This project has afforded us the opportunity to collect data that will be useful to early adopters.


Areas needing additional study

Crop rotation study comparing camelina to other alternative crops in rotation with winter wheat.

Crop modeling for camelina.

Harvesting technology for camelina.

Weed control in camelina.

Feed value of camelina co-products for a variety of livestock.

The upper limits to feeding camelina co-products to a variety of livestock.

Potential of camelina for cooperative larger than three to five members.

Community-based camelina systems.


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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.