MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Canola growers could soon be facing competition from a new type of oilseed.
A California company will be harvesting its first commercial crop of pongamia next year, a leguminous tree species that produces oilseed pods.
“The oilseeds have a very similar amino acid profile to soybeans,” said Naveen Sikka, chief executive officer of TerViva Inc.
The seeds contain 40 percent oil that is high in oleic acid. The trees produce eight times the oil and two times the protein per acre as soybeans.
TerViva believes the crop has the potential to surpass global palm oil production with significantly lower environmental impacts.
The trees will be planted on land that has gone out of production. They will first be grown in Florida and Hawaii. The trees are native to India and Australia and have to be planted in tropical or subtropical climates.
One million acres of citrus trees grew in Florida 10 years ago, but that is down to 300,000 acres because of citrus greening disease.
“There is no cure and that industry is imploding,” Sikka told delegates attending the recent Oilseed & Grain Trade Summit.
Land that once sold for $15,000 an acre is now worth $3,000 an acre. It is sandy soil that is not suitable for row crops but is ideally suited for pongamia trees.
TerViva has partnered with eight of the 10 largest citrus growers in Florida to plant 200 acres of the trees on 18 sites across the state.
TerViva believes pongamia will eventually generate $1.2 billion in annual revenue for farmers in Florida and Hawaii.
The trees have already been in the ground for five years in those two states.
Feed trials show pongamia meal can be used in cattle rations at an inclusion rate of up to 60 percent. It has a feed conversion ratio of nine.
TerViva plans to heavily promote the sustainability aspect of the crop, which uses one-tenth the water and chemicals of a soybean crop.
The nitrogen-fixing crop does not require nitrogen fertilizer and acts as a carbon sink because it is a permanent tree crop.