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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Accelerated Development of Commercial Hydrotreated Renewable Jet (Hrj) Fuel from Redesigned Oil Seed Feedstock Supply Chains

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Objective 1: Produce genetically-improved oil seed crops to enhance compatibility of feedstocks with hydro-treated renewable jet (HRJ) fuel conversion processes, and oil yield and quality stability under stressed production conditions. Objective 2: Provide regionalized strategies to guide sustainable oil seed production integration into existing farms in ways that increase farm profitability and rural economic opportunities, while providing biofuel refiners dependable supplies of high quality feedstocks. Objective 3: Develop cost-effective processes to remove crop oil impurities from feedstocks that would otherwise increase pre-treatment costs and reduce conversion efficiency of oils to HRJ fuels. Objective 4: Optimally configure conversion technology with genetically improved seed oil feedstocks and pre-treatment requirements to reduce the cost of HRJ fuels produced. Objective 5: Align community and business stakeholders to promote their economic opportunities though sustainable asset-based development that incorporates HRJ fuel production compatible with available resources. Objective 6: Develop analyses that provide strategic guidance to improve sustainable environmental quality, cost effectiveness, and rural economic development, particularly as biofuel production expands.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
The contribution of the ARS SY will be directed at objectives 2 and 6. Objective 2: Published oilseed production data and data collected in long-term multi-location crop rotation studies will be used in a meta-analysis to evaluate the productivity, input use, production costs, and profitability of oilseed production alternatives. These data will be used along with USDA-NASS data to assemble enterprise budgets for region-specific crop rotations including typical rotations for the region as well as rotations that include oilseed production alternatives. The enterprise budgets will be used to evaluate the production costs and breakeven oilseed prices for oilseed production alternatives relative to typical cropping systems for these sites. The data will also be used to evaluate relative fertilizer, pesticide, fuel and labor requirements for the oilseed production alternatives.

Probabilistic and economic models will be developed, based on a survey instrument administered to area farmers, to examine: (i) farmers’ willingness to produce alternative oil seed crops for biofuel production under different contractual, market, and production conditions; and (ii) the economic viability at the enterprise level of producing alternative oil seed crops for biofuel production. The probabilistic models of farmers’ willingness to produce will utilize econometric discrete choice techniques to assess the marginal impact of changes in contractual, market and production factors (e.g. contract length, price, input costs) on a farmers likelihood of producing oil seed crops for biofuel production. In addition, the models will be utilized to assess the importance of pertinent demographic, economic, environmental, farm, management, policy, risk and social factors on farmers’ perceptions about oil seed crop and biofuel production. The probabilistic models will be utilized to spatially predict the probability of agricultural producers adopting oil seed enterprises across the agricultural landscape. Coupling the probabilistic models with the break-even prices, will determine adoption premiums above break-even prices that would induce farmers to incorporate oil seed crops into their production systems.

Objective 6 will evaluate impacts of expanded biofuel production on the environmental, social, and economic indicators. Production scenarios derived from field studies conducted as part of the project and USDA-NASS aggregated county-level data will be used in the Erosion-Productivity Impact Calculator (EPIC) and Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to produce environmental indicators including soil carbon, soil erosion, and water quality. The model IMPLAN will be customized to include detailed feedstock demand and biofuel production data to estimate regional job creation as a social indicator when introducing renewable jet fuel supply chain components into rural communities. Land-based resource data will be implemented in the USDA-ARS Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP) database, building on the existing research data framework that assembles measurement data, measurement methods, landscape, and land management practices.


3.Progress Report:

Four focus groups were held in Mandan and Minot North Dakota, Wellington, Kansas and Enid, Oklahoma, all areas with histories of some canola production. The respondents were identified by the local extension educators/agents using quota sampling techniques. All had substantial wheat production and of those some had grown or were growing canola. The purpose of the focus groups was to assess the facilitators and barriers to growing canola or other brassicas for aviation fuel in each context: northern North Dakota, central North Dakota, southern Kansas, and northern Oklahoma.

Two surveys have been initiated by collaborators to meet the objectives of the agreement. The first survey examined outreach and extension efforts to farmers about feedstocks for biofuel production. Particular emphasis was placed on oilseed feedstocks suitable for the western United States. The information provided from the survey will help to guide extension and outreach activities for the project and to help educate agricultural professionals, agribusiness and farmers in adoption of biofuel feedstocks and production. The second survey was developed to examine farmers’ cropping decisions and interest in growing oilseed crops for bioenergy production. The information provided by the survey will help guide industry and policymakers about the potential for oilseed production for bioenergy; assist industry with contracting with farmers; provide knowledge on the suitability of oilseed crop options in different regions in the western U.S. The survey was sent out in April to June 2013. Data from the survey is currently being compiled and cleaned by a third party. An initial dataset is expected to be compiled by the end of July, 2013. A significant component of the survey is a stated choice experiment. The experiment was designed to assess farmers’ reactions to different oilseed characteristics (e.g. shatter resistance, pest tolerance and resistance, winter hardiness and effects of direct combining) and contract/market attributes (net returns under the contract, length of the contract, crop insurance availability, cost share assistance, and presence of an “Act of God” clause). The results from this part of the study will help to guide plant breeding research; market development initiatives; and effects on agricultural land usage. A significant deliverable from the survey was a fact sheet about oilseed production for bioenergy that was sent out with each survey. Thus, over 10,000 farmers have been provided some information about oilseed production opportunities and biofuel production.

Three pilot counties, one in each primary wheat producing region of the U.S. (northern Great Plains, central Great Plains, and inland Pacific Northwest), were identified for crop simulation modeling and field scale economic analysis. Initial crop management data and enterprise budgets are being constructed for each pilot county, and preliminary crop simulation model runs are being conducted for the first of these counties. Enterprise budget information is being compiled in a standardized format necessary for linkage to a national scale economic model (POLYSYS) to analyze national and regional economic impacts. Published yield trial data have been compiled for use in model calibration and validation. A data portal has been set up by the National Agricultural Library to facilitate data exchange between project components and eventual delivery of project results. An oilseed field trial was initiated in coordination with the other project field research sites. Crop growth and crop stress data are being collected in the field project for use in developing parameters for crop simulation modeling, to provide information on the relative performance of these crops in different regions, and for use in crop selection and breeding.


Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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