In Sept. 2009, we had the chance to visit a really cool project called Freeway To Fuel. Dallas Hanks, whose been working on a project with Utah State University, the Utah Department of Transportation, and a few other groups let out come out & watch as they harvested a crop of Canola plants.
Canola Plants Ready To Be Harvested
The project he’s been working on involves doing something no one has really ever thought of before; planting oil seed crops along the freeway on state owned land to be used in the production of Biodiesel to power the states tractors that mow all that land in the first place.
You see, the land (and there’s a LOT of it) usually just has wild grass growing on it to keep it from eroding. The State of Utah shells out a lot of cash to pay for the fuel to mow down all that grass every year. Wouldn’t it be great if the land could be put to a better use?
So with that theory in mind, Dallas has been working over the past few years to see if he can get Canola to grow along a test strip of freeway in Kaysville, Utah.
As part of the project, they also decided to create a test plot to mimic the freeway soil on a plot of land that Utah State University owns.
They prepared the plot just like they would if they were laying a freeway down. Same compaction, same road bed, same soil…everything!
They created several planting areas using several different techniques. One they simply scratched the ground a bit & threw down the seed. On another they plowed the ground and stuck the seeds in the furrows. On other plots they fertilized and on another they fertilized and stuck a bit of water on it. All in the name of seeing what might work.
On the day we visited, they were harvesting a few of their test plots to see just how well they turned out.
It was all pretty cool to watch!
The seeds are then analyzed to see how well they turned out, then pressed for the oil content and then made into Biodiesel. They even had a tractor similar to what the state uses to mow the freeways with to test out their fuel in!
It’s still early in the project to know how the research will turn out, but the possibility of something like this is definitely exciting to learn about!
The project would require fairly little in terms of funding to get it going and the plan is that it would be self-sufficient based on the money saved on Biodiesel that they burn in the tractors versus buying diesel for them.
We think it’s a great idea and will post more as we hear the results. For now, it’s just exciting to see projects like this even being considered. Whats even cooler is that this ground breaking research is being done in Utah, which is primarily a desert. Think of how well something like this might work in states that receive more annual rainfall!
Great stuff! We wish them well and hope that the research is able to show the project to be a viable use for all that land we’ve got out here….