Andrew Trzaska | November 19, 2011
Michigan State University recently completed a study at the Muskegon County Airport that may help in the future development of biofuels.
What Muskegon’s airport as well as two others in the state had to offer for the study was plenty of unused land surrounding the airport’s runways. These fields, normally off limit to the public or development for security and safety reasons, were used for growing mustard and canola seeds, whose oil can be converted into biodiesel for use in vehicles including cars and tractors.
Dennis Pennington of MSU’s Extension office spoke at Thursday’s county transportation committee meeting about the project, which spanned three airports including Detroit Metro and Gerald R. Ford International.
Pennington noted that the project was an incremental success. They did two plantings, one without affecting the soil and a second after tilling the soil. The second planting did much better, however did not produce at the level considered to be cost effective.
Pennington explained that farmers have been able to surpass the threshold needed to make it cost-effective with ideal soil, which the airfield isn’t. However, Pennington deemed the project as still beneficial because it taught researchers how to improve growth from poor to moderate.
Furthermore, the attempt gave researchers a feel for where FAA officials might allow them to plant in the future, plus that the crops they were growing did not attract enough birds to cause problems for airports, a main concern surrounding the project.
While the growing season is over, the grant that funded the project technically ends on February 29.