Colorado State University graduate student Navid Sediqi wanted to study whether certain oil seed crops would grow at elevations similar to his native Afghanistan.
He picked the Yampa Valley as his testing ground.
“The basic idea of my research is to put different oil seed crops at different elevations and to test the adaptability of these species,” said Sediqi, who is pursuing his master’s degree in soil and crop sciences at CSU’s College of Agriculture Sciences as a Fulbright Scholar. “… Because we have similar altitudes, I wanted to see if it could grow there.”
Oil seed crops yield cooking oils, among other things. Sediqi said Afghanistan buys oil seed crops from neighboring countries. In addition to providing a source of agricultural revenue for the country, he said it could help replace illegal crops, such as poppy, which is cultivated to make opium. Sediqi said new crops, which could replace war-ravaged agricultural infrastructure, would create jobs including creating an industry for women.
In addition to the benefits Sediqi’s research could yield for his native country, there also are many applications for the U.S.
“All of this effort is part of a multidisciplinary project in Colorado,” said Jerry Johnson, an associate professor and extension specialist for crop production at CSU.
Johnson, who is assisting Sediqi with the project, said 15 to 20 people and eight graduate students were working on projects involving oil seed crops.
He said mechanical engineers are testing the viability of the oils extracted from the seeds as alternative fuels. He said geneticists are examining oil characteristics. He said animal scientists are studying the byproduct of the seeds as animal feed after the oil has been extracted. He said agricultural economists and entomologists are working on different oil seed projects.
Johnson added that projects similar to Sediqi’s are being conducted in Fort Collins, the San Luis Valley and Yellow Jacket, all places with different altitudes and climates. He said the goal was to make farmers independent.
Routt County Extension Agent CJ Mucklow, who is helping with Sediqi’s project, said it could help determine the viability of oil seed crops that can be grown during the short growing season of Northwest Colorado.
“There’s interest from the farmers here,” Mucklow said. “They would be very excited if they could grow their own fuel. Farming has become such a small part of the community. To grow some additional crops would be exciting. For me, it’s exciting to add to farming’s future here. It’s such a tough way to make a living. That’s why we only have six small grain farmers.”
Mucklow said oil seed crop research never has been done in Routt County. Johnson said research like Sediqi’s wasn’t being done outside Colorado.
Sediqi reviewed the progress last week of his crops, which were planted in June at three plots in Routt County with different elevations and soil types. Sites near Steamboat Springs on Mike Hogue’s ranch and on Fred Robinson’s ranch in Henderson Park near Stagecoach did well. Another site at Mike Williams’ ranch near Hayden was destroyed by hail.
They planted nine species of oil seeds: sunflower, safflower, flax, camelina, canola, brassica, brassica juncea, brassica carinata and cuphea.
Camelina, flax and canola are potential crops for altitudes in the valley, Sediqi said. He plans to return next spring to replant the three species to continue observing them to determine whether they’ll grow in Afghanistan.
Sediqi said he wants his work to lead to long-term partnerships between Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, CSU and others.
“Hopefully, we can continue working together,” he said. “It’s not dependent on my presence or my graduate work. It can continue after I leave.”