Montana gold

MSU is helping develop oilseeds that may one day change the world

Even after working at Montana State University’s Central Agricultural Research Center near Moccasin for 25 years, Dave Wichman is still excited about safflower.

He’s standing in a field of the prickly plants under a surprisingly blue sky. The dried plants are mostly a spineless variety (better for picking and forage), but they still rake at his pants as he walks through.

Wichman, CARC’s superintendent, hops onto the Wintersteiger small plot combine and mows down a few rows of safflower. Mountains surround him–the North and South Moccasins, Judiths, Snowies, Little Belts, Highwoods and the peaks of the Bear Paws. Three deer–two does and a little buck–stand and walk nonchalantly away from the low roar of the combine. Grasshoppers pop up from beneath the drying heads of orange and yellow-blossomed safflower.

From safflower and other oilseeds come biofuels. And industrial lubricants. And jet fuel, cooking oil and omega-rich beef. They are coaxed from the earth by sun and science and transformed into useful products through technological advances mixed with the trial and error of the scientific process. Researchers in MSU’s College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station are working on growing oilseeds adapted to Montana’s harsh, dry conditions that just might make a better world.

More at MSU News Service

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