Oilseed Farm-to-Market Demonstration

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $77,688.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Federal Funds: $97,500.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $14,965.00
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Kimberly Morse
Whitman Conservation District

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: canola, rapeseed, wheat


  • Animal Production: feed additives
  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, no-till, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management, market study, value added
  • Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management, weather monitoring
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, employment opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    Increasing producer knowledge, awareness, attitudes and skills: The Project will provide hands-on technical assistance, a market analysis and research at five farms. Coupled with an extensive outreach program, it will ensure increased producer awareness about the positive aspects of direct seeded oilseed crops. Involvement will focus on both economical and environmental on-farm benefits to be received by the farmers and local communities. By demonstrating the benefits of direct seeded oilseed crops in rotation, producers will be exposed to ways of maintaining and enhancing the quality and productivity of their soil. The demonstration will also increase awareness of the benefits of direct seeding as a conservation tool for soil, water, energy, and fish and wildlife habitat within the region. This Project will strengthen agricultural competitiveness on-farm, and regionally, by demonstrating that there are multiple options available with oilseed crops: the crop can produce two by-products for market versus one crop for market. The participants will oversee the project: they will prep and seed the crop; participate in site visits for field review; evaluate soil samples; assess outcomes; harvest the crop; take part in the marketing; participate in a market analysis; and discuss their experiences with other producers at shop talks, meetings, and through articles. Participation will be documented as necessary throughout the project. With this type of research and educational approach, individual producer skill levels will increase from the experience of participation in the project. Adding oilseed crops to a rotation will assist in sustaining the economic viability of agricultural operations and their communities by having a value-added crop, making it possible for family farms to continue to operate and stay in the rural areas. Information dissemination: The project findings will be useful to producers because the information is coming from a local working farm. It will support the strong interest being shown in the benefits received from an oilseed crop in a direct seed system rotation, both economically and environmentally. Annual tours of the participating farms will provide on-site visits for producers, researchers, and agencies, allowing them to interact directly with the participating producer. Providing a networking opportunity is one the most powerful tools used in motivating individuals. These networking opportunities will expound on producer knowledge of growing oilseed crops, including fertility, soil disturbance levels, seeding rates, pests and diseases, soil test results, yields, and markets. Knowledge will be gained and disseminated regarding the experience in marketing the value-added products of the crop. In addition to the annual and final reports providing necessary information to the participating producers and their neighbors to help them to consider growing oilseeds, an informational brochure will be created from the findings to assist in explaining the agricultural methods involved with direct seeded oilseed crops. These will be available during tours and shop talks, to other agencies and upon individual request. In addition to the tours, information will also be disseminated through the District newsletter (circulation of 900 producers, landowners, regional and state representatives), county newspapers, and shop talks. With a strong outreach program, a minimum of 100 people that have an interest in pursuing oilseed crops will be reached; and there will be an additional 7,500 new acres of direct seeded oilseed crops in Whitman County by 2008. One of the project goals is to have the local marketing cooperatives begin posting the daily price listings for oilseed oil and meal, which will assist in increasing the awareness of the potential products to the producers. The outreach program is very concise and achievable, and will be a success due to the high interest being demonstrated by producers and researchers. Resources impacted: The proposed Project uses the direct seeding system as a base due to its many environmental benefits to soil, air, water quality, and wildlife. It will enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends through reduced soil erosion, reduced sediment in the Palouse and Snake River Basins, and subsequent reduced phosphorous, nitrogen, and pesticides in the Basin surface waters. Replacing a traditional summer fallow system with continuous cropping direct seeded crops, ie. oilseeds, will provide erosion control on sloping fields in the Palouse, reduce the amount of blowing dust, and improve surface water quality. The Project will reduce erosion by 37,500 tons per year with the addition of the 7,500 new direct seeded acres within the county by 2008. The direct seed system provides food and cover to wildlife because the crop residue, or stubble, remains on the field at all times. Along with the use of the direct seed system, alternative crops, such as oilseed crops, benefit wheat and barley in their rotation. Cereal grain monocultures have allowed soil-borne disease to perpetuate. Proper crop rotations can reduce weeds, diseases, and insect pressure; reduce crop chemicals; and can increase yields; and improve soil health and fertility. The reduction of chemical use is a positive aspect for human consumption. Positive economic impact (in dollars): If the findings of this Project were to be adopted, economic impact on farm families would be the reduced use of diesel fuel in a direct seed system from approximately 6 gallons per acre to 2 gallons per acre, which is $6.60 per acre at today’s price of $1.649 per gallon. Another impact by adding an oilseed to the direct seed crop rotation is the marketability of two by-products compared with one product (crop), increasing the gross return per acre by $31.80 per acre with a 1,000 pound per acre seed yield (seed=$0.129/lb; oil=$0.258/lb; meal=$192/ton; or average of $31.80/ac added-value). (An example Market Analysis by Roe & Young is attached.) With the direct seeding system, producers adopt a sustainable farming system and reduce their diesel use, field time, and demands. Soil disturbance is greatly reduced thereby decreasing wind and water erosion. Air and water qualities are improved due to reduced blowing dust and soil erosion. In addition to the increase of marketable products through diversification, there is an enhancement of quality and productivity of the soil. The producers are finding innovative methods of keeping the family farm viable, the soil productive, and staying competitive with the Federal programs such as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The agricultural community is constantly under pressure to fulfill a more environmentally aware method of producing their products. Regionally, this Project will reduce both soil and wind erosion and the amount of carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere due to the reduced amount of farming operations in the direct seeding system. By increasing the acreage of direct seeded oilseed crops in the Palouse from 2,500 to 10,000 acres, producers will reduce diesel fuel use by approximately 30,000 gallons per year worth $49,47010. The increased marketability of the oilseed crop would ensure that the farm families would continue to be viable assets to their local communities. Producer involvement: The five participating producers will contribute to the project through the following activities: advisory and management of the project; seed bed prep and seed the crop; coordinate rotation for oilseed crop; participate with the technical staff during the field visits and evaluations; evaluate soil samples; assess outcomes; harvest the crop; participate in the oilseed processing with the provided portable crusher on-site; participate in the marketing of the oilseed by-products; and discuss their experiences with other producers at shop talks, meetings, and through articles. With the producers being involved and at the first level of the accountability, they will examine what certain agricultural practices need to change and why, options that are available to them to achieve their desired results, how they can get assistance in making the changes, and the economic benefits of added value. Participation will be documented as necessary throughout the project through pictures of on-site field visits, sign-in sheets at shop talks and meetings, and printed materials including producer input in the grant reports and the brochure. Project relevance: The Project will satisfy human food and fiber needs through the increased growth of oilseeds as a crop with the by-products being used as vegetable oil and organic soil amendments. In the direct seed system, there is a decreased amount of chemical use, which equates to better human health. The meal by-product adds to the availability of high protein, natural animal feed supplement, which equates to better human health due to the organic nature of the feed. The Project will enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends through reduced soil erosion, reduced sediment in the Palouse and Snake River Basins, and subsequent reduced phosphorous, nitrogen, and pesticides in surface waters. Use of the direct seed system utilizes crop rotation to assist in the management of weeds, insects, and diseases. Use of rotations in a farming system enables a producer to use a variety of weed control measures reducing the likelihood of weeds developing a resistance to a specific chemical. The Project will make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and integrate natural biological cycles and controls that increase organic matter in the soil and reduce diesel fuel use. The Project will sustain the economic viability of agricultural operations by reducing diesel fuel and machinery costs; spreading risk through crop variety and rotation, which also addresses weed control and saves soil/organic matter; and preserves their local communities by allowing the family farm to stay productive and the families active in their rural communities.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project objectives:
    The objectives of the project Oilseed Farm-to-Market Demonstration are to use the direct seed system as the base farming technique and to work with the participating producers in a whole farm scenario of growing oilseed crops in the rotation; then to evaluate with the producer the economics of oilseed by-product marketing versus the oilseed seed sale.

    Objective: To work with five producers using the direct seed system in three different rainfall zones, each having field size plots of one each: oilseed crop (up to 20 acres) to compare to fallow or peas (no acreage limit, current or past rotation).
    Goal: To evaluate a three-year crop rotation on a farm-scale scenario in three different rainfall

    Objective: To determine the proper variety of canola or mustard to be grown successfully in the Palouse Region. To meet with participating producers to determine what variety they have interest in growing and the location and rotation they will be using, along with setting up a timeline for the producers and grant needs.
    Goal: To assist each producer with the location and varieties they will be seeding their oilseed crop and creating a timeline for coordination of the producer and grant.

    Objective: To purchase a portable farm-scale oilseed-crushing machine, constructed on a trailer, to complete the on-site oilseed crushing for market. The demonstration will crush the oilseed, creating two by-products for market, oil and meal.
    Goal: To demonstrate to producers, the capabilities of crushing oilseed; to use the demonstration crusher on tours, shop talks, meetings, fairs, and forums when applicable.

    Objective: To complete a three-year cycle of the oilseed crop growing conditions within the direct seed system; crop benefits in the rotation; and address pest and weed control. A minimum of five farm visits by the technical staff will be completed to assess the crop.
    Goal: To assist producers in obtaining a successful stand of oilseed crop. To determine fertility, disturbance levels, seeding rates, pest/diseases; conduct soil tests and yield comparisons; and address chemical concerns and carryover with the producer.

    Objective: To complete a three-year market analysis of the oilseed by-products, oil and meal, compared to the straight sell of the whole uncrushed seed showing how to add value to a farm commodity.
    Goal: To demonstrate that a larger profit margin can be obtained through the marketing of two by-products.

    Objective: To assist in the marketing of the oilseed by-products, oil and meal.
    Goal: To ascertain the available markets and the protocol used in accessing those markets. To have the local co-ops post price listings of the seed, oil, and meal.

    Objective: To provide use-friendly forums of information/education and outreach programs, such as tours, shop talks, meetings, news articles, reports, and a brochure.
    Goal: To conduct an annual tour, shop talk and meeting; to publish two reports annually in the District’s newsletter and submit same to the County Gazette; and to complete reports as directed by SARE and make available to the public. Upon completion of the project, create an informational brochure from the findings to assist in explaining the agricultural methods involved with direct seeded oilseed crops.

    Objective: To submit the final report for peer review at Washington State University (WSU) and, when approved, have a published paper. The final report will contain information on farm location and precipitation zones; nutrient management; yield data and pest management; weed management; economics of farm-scale equipment, markets for oil and meal produced.
    Goal: Once the final report has been completed, it will be submitted for peer review at WSU with the intent of it becoming a published paper. Submission will continue to such publications as Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Pacific NW Extension Conservation Tillage Up-Date Journal Series, Journal of the Farm Economics Association (FEA), and USDA-Economic Research Service (ERS).

    Project methods:
    There will be two parts of the project: research of the agronomics of growing oilseed crops on the participants’ farms and education of the producer participants with adding value through crushing their oilseed on the farm with a portable crusher. The parameters for each research objective will be: researching growing conditions within the direct seed system (soil fertility, soil disturbance levels, seeding rates, pests, and diseases); researching crop benefits in the rotation (soil moisture and nutrient tests, crop yields); addressing pest and weed control issues (plant-back restrictions, weed resistance); and a market analysis of the value of oilseed seed versus the value of crushed oil and meal.

    The demonstration projects will be in three different rainfall zones (13-15”; 16-18”; 19-21”), each site will have two field-size plots of up to 20 acres each of a direct seeded oilseed crop (new to the farm) and either fallow or peas (past rotation). It is the intent to compare the new oilseed crop with the producer’s current rotation of crops in the three-year period. The method will be that each participant’s field will represent a plot with five replications total (producers fields), and will include the appropriate varieties of canola or mustard for the Palouse Region. A minimum of five farm visits by the technical staff will be completed to gather crop data. To assist with the education of value-added markets, a portable farm scale oilseed crushing machine will be used to crush the oilseed on-site for market. The crushed oilseed will create two by-products, oil and meal.

    Markets for the oil and meal will be located and economics compared with the straight sell of the whole uncrushed seed. Potential markets for canola oil are the Baker Commodities in Spokane used in biodiesel and livestock feed additive, and at Litehouse Foods in Sandpoint, Idaho, as vegetable oil. A potential market for canola meal is to livestock feeders and dairies as a feed protein additive in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho currently deficient in protein additives. Potential markets for mustard oil are in Spokane used in biodiesel. Potential markets for mustard meal is for soil additives as a soil fumigant on organic farms. A marketing tool is the USDA-Economic Research Service 2004 showing prices paid and volumes of oilseeds purchased from producers in the recent marketing year. One goal of this proposal is to have local cooperatives and brokers post daily price listings for local producers. Columbia Oilseeds, LLC, a local company, along with local cooperatives and brokers have expressed interest in buying seed, oil and meal.

    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.