ROSEBORO — High school science students from Mintz Christian Academy are looking forward to watching two acres of a special plant bloom in a few months.
Next month, they’ll share their agriculture work with camelina — which is unfamiliar to many growers in the area. MCA is inviting the public to “The Farmer’s Field” at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17 at the school, 2741 Mintz Road.
Student’s from Dr. Winnie White’s earth science class planted a test plot of camelina, next to the school. The plant is an oil bearing seed, with a low carbon footprint when used as fuel for aviation. It’s also valuable in swine, cow and broiler feeds.
White and other students are looking forward to meeting with farmers in the area to see the benefits of camelina. In addition to viewing where all the work took, the students will have a crop cover presentation for seed farmers and a sampling of finger foods made from camelina oil.
“It’s not just learning a chapter out of a text book, but it’s actually hands-on experience, which I could not have provided by myself,” White said.
Scott Owen, a local farmer and MCA parent, is assisting the students with the project and other lessons on soil, taking sample, nutrients and the environment.
“If the interest is there, it could be a new crash crop for local farmers,” Owen said. “It may generate enough interest.”
The plant is in the mustard family and is a distant relative to canola. It’s expected to grow about 3 feet and produce a yellow flower.
“The seeds are really, really tiny,” he said. “I was amazed at how small the seeds were.”
To express its size, Owen compared it to soybeans seeds, which is about 3,200 per pound. One pound of camelina is 400,000.
“That was a challenge to us because of all the equipment that we used on the farm is not used to planting seeds that small,” he said.
Students scattered the seeds manually and rain assisted with planting.
“It’s a quick growing crop,” he said. “Some farmers out West, they’ll plant it in the first part of the spring and they’ll be harvesting by June or July.”
Production wise, one of the challenges is not having a local processing plant.
“You can’t grow it and have nowhere to go,” Owen said.
During the upcoming event, MCA hopes some farmers and businesses will take an interest in the crop. He said there’s a lot of interest on the West Coast when it comes to fuels.
“The military loves it, from my understanding because it burns it clean,” Owen said.
Robert Simmons, an environmentalist with Sampson County roots, wanted to bring the experience to Sampson County after working in California.
“The potential level is probably through the roof,” Simmons said about the benefits.
White showed appreciation for the support from the farmers
“We actually went out in the field and helped take out rocks, sticks and things like that,” she said. “That hands-on approach is valuable.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.