UDOT Plants Fail to Yield Biodiesel Fuels

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Department of Transportation won't be producing biodiesel fuel this year after a poor harvest of oil-producing plants.

Four months after planting canola, safflower and flax crops along the sides of highways, few yielded seed.

Researchers from Utah State University, who partnered with UDOT to plant the crops, blame high temperatures and shallow planting depths for the failure. They hope to come back this fall and next spring and try planting again.

"The thing that we found this summer was that Mother Nature rules all," said Dallas Hanks, a USU doctoral student. "We've had the hottest summer in Utah on record, and our precipitation has been off the charts in terms of being dry. It's really difficult to grow plants in those conditions."

Two years ago, Hanks came up with the idea to planting oil-producing crops alongside state highways. UDOT gave him $50,000 to experiment with different crops. The money came from a federal grant.

Hanks and other researchers planted seeds in early May near Tremonton, Kaysville and Mona.

Hanks learned safflower seeds should be planted deeper alongside the highway to counteract harsh growing conditions. He is confident his plan to grow oil-producing plants by the highway will be a success.

"We don't really feel like it's a complete failure," Hanks said. "We feel like we've learned a lot and this next year, we'll have really good, strong information on which to base our study."

UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo said UDOT would like additional funding to continue the project in the future. The agency hopes the plants will produce enough oil for biodiesel to power UDOT trucks and other machinery.

"We're very excited about it," Carillo said. "We're hoping it will turn out successfully so we can keep funding it next year and the year after that."


Information from: Deseret Morning News

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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