Co. Laois native, Brian Caldbeck, has confirmed that tillage farming in the United States (US) has performed reasonably well over the past number of years; despite the challenges posed by last year’s spike in fertiliser prices.

Caldbeck moved to western Kentucky almost 20 year ago. He now runs a seed businesses, specialising in the following crops – food grade oilseed rape (OSR), industrial OSR, oats and peas.

Speaking on the latest Tillage Edge podcast, Caldbeck said western Kentucky comprises large areas of crop land.

He commented: “Most full-time farm businesses in this area are managing 1,000+ acres of land.

“Maize, soya and wheat are the main crops grown in the area. Smaller acreages of barley and tobacco are also grown.

“In relation to my own business, seed is sold to growers throughout the United States.”

US tillage farming

Kentucky is slightly larger than Ireland in terms of its size. The western part of the state is approximately 1,000 miles from the Atlantic and 2,000 miles from the Pacific coast.

“We grow some of our own seed,” Caldbeck confirmed.

“However, we also import a significant proportion of the seed that we sell from Europe. This is because we have a non-GM [genetically modified] product.

“It’s really difficult to find places here that will guarantee zero cross-contamination with genetically modified varieties.

“Our customers are looking for non-GM varieties because the market delivers a premium price for this produce,” he added.

Caldbeck referenced the fact that hexane-based distillation systems are now widely used in the US to extract rapeseed oil form crushed seed.

“Hexane is an organic solvent. It is extremely efficient at extracting rape seed oil,” he continued.

“The final stage in the process involves the distilling of the hexane, leaving a very pure form of the rape oil.

“Because hexane is such an efficient solvent, it leaves a rape meal residue that is totally oil-free.

“With expeller press systems, the final rapeseed meal can still contain significant quantities of oil,” he said.

Turning to the 2023 growing season in Kentucky, Caldbeck confirmed that both the maize and soya bean harvest are now wrapped up.

“We have had some decent weather in this part of the world over recent weeks. And this has allowed farmers to get on with the completion of field work,” he said.