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New Zealand Biofuel Trial to Start in October

Solid Energy’s biodiesel arm is “quietly confident” it will get enough cropping farmers to plant oilseed rape for a 1500ha biofuel trial in the South Island.

August 24, 2007 (The Press) – Its operating division, Biodiesel New Zealand, plans to have the first crop sown in mid-October. Contract rates will vary depending on where the crop is grown, and incentives are being introduced to make it competitive with autumn-grown rotation crops.

Once a crop has received a positive moisture test, the company will pay 80 per cent upfront, with the remainder received by the farmer when its weight is confirmed.

The company will pick up transport costs and compensate farmers, in a staggered payment, for crop storage.

Rape-oil farmers will not have to pay for the cost of seed until the crop has been harvested.

Farmers are sought from North Otago and Canterbury south of the Ashburton River and north of the Waimakariri River and as far south as Southland.

Parts of Mid-Canterbury, however, are off-limits to prevent rape seed straying into export vegetable-seed crops.

Biodiesel New Zealand’s general manager, Paul Quinn, said the company would use only contracted crops grown with seeds they supplied.

The company would not buy spot crops or rape oil from non-contracted growers.

“I want to be clear that we will not be contracting crops in Mid-Canterbury areas where export vegetable-seed growing is most concentrated.”

He said the company’s agronomist would check that farmers were maintaining growing distances and abiding by the Seed Quality Management Authority’s seed-crop isolation distance (SCID) scheme.

Contracted crops have to be registered with the scheme.

Quinn said the trial would allow the arable-farming community to assess the crop’s benefits. Rape-oil contracts would be competitive with other rotation crops, he said.

The chairman of the Grains Council of New Zealand, Andrew Gillanders, said farmers were looking at the rape-oil trial positively because Biodiesel New Zealand had worked with the cropping industry and researchers.

“If (growing rape oil) is possible and profitable, farmers will do it.

“They are prepared to look at it on a small scale and not affect other industries until research is done.”

The Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) will evaluate the potential of biodiesel crops and sound out oilseed rape’s benefits and value as a break crop, with research to begin next year.

Quinn said grower interest had been strong, with two to eight inquiries a day from farmers.

“We would like to think that inside of two to three years we would have 20,000ha to 30,000ha of canola in rotation,” he said.

The trial will reveal more about processing oilseed rape for biodiesel foodstock and how its by-product performs as an animal food, as well as providing costs and potential yields for farmers.

Biodiesel New Zealand manufactures about 1 million litres of biodiesel a year at an Addington plant in Christchurch, from used cooking oil.

The Government wants biofuels to make up 3.4pc of all fuel sold by oil companies by 2012.

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