The Washington state Biofuels Cropping Systems (WBCS) Project was initiated in 2007 with funding from the Washington State Legislature, and support from the WSDA, WA Department of Commerce, and the WSU Energy Program. Since the initial field research trials were established, over 70 WSU and USDA-ARS scientists, Extension faculty and staff, graduate students, and collaborators have contributed their time and expertise throughout the state, as well as in surrounding states. While the overall goal remains to provide research and extension leadership of critical evaluation of the potential and subsequent recommendations for expansion of biofuel feedstock production by diversifying the wheat-based cropping systems in WA state, many of the research projects have been refined as results have identified more targeted needs in each of four major agroecological zones (AEZs). The WBCS team over the past two years has specifically focused on oilseed production research and technology development for increasing feedstock for local biodiesel production, and increasing the role of Extension in the transfer of research results to growers, agricultural suppliers, grain storage and transporters, government policy makers, oilseed processors and end users to help facilitate the entire supply chain to increase state biodiesel production. Future visions for expanded WA oilseed feedstock production will support biodiesel, aviation fuel, food oil, animal feed, fiber, specialty chemicals, and soil amendments.
During the past five years there have been significant increases in each step along the oilseed production chain in Washington State, including acreage, yield, processing facilities, biodiesel use, and animal feed consumption. Oilseed feedstock production is specifically identified in Governor Inslee’s 2013-2015 Strategic Budget Plan to “encourage the growth of oilseed farms” (http://www.ofm.wa.gov/budget13inslee/presspacket.pdf). Continued funding of research through the WBCS project will be a critical link to support improved production practices and end-uses. Extension and outreach will remain essential to transfer research findings into practical information for growers and other stakeholders. We have documented rapid increases in oilseed production of other semi-arid regions of the world, and we have similar expectations for WA and the PNW with continued and increased R&D from state and federal funding.