Scrambled States: Montana and Nebraska – 6/3


Today we’re looking at two states where over 60% of their land is utilized for agriculture! Learn about Montana’s safflower seeds and Nebraska’s sugar beets in today’s lessons!


Montana is home to around 53,000 acres of safflower which produce close to 36 million pounds of safflower oils each year! Safflower is a rotational crop that was originally grown for the flowers which were used in making red and yellow dyes for clothing and food preparation!  Today, they are grown for the seeds.  These seeds are then used to make oils that are used for cooking and is an ingredient in many common food products! Once the oil is extracted, the left over product is called “meal” which is used as a protein-rich supplement in livestock feed!  By-products from oil extraction are also used in various cosmetic products as well.  While a majority of the seeds are used for oils, some of them are used in bird feed mixes. 

Check out this video from a safflower oil producer in Montana!

Even though our read aloud today is not focused on safflower seeds, sunflowers are also used for oil production!  Follow along with today’s story called “The Bad Seed” by Jory John.

Learn about density when you make your own lava lamp in today’s activity!

Learn more about Montana here!


Time to turn up the beet!  Nebraska has been successfully producing sugar beets for more than 100 years! A sugar beet is a plant that can grow up to 1 foot long and weigh 2-5 pounds!  It is grown for the production of white, brown, and powdered sugar!  There are around 300 farmers in Nebraska that grow more than 1.3 million tons of sugar each year. That would equal 4.5 million 100lb bags of crystallized sugar!  No wonder we’re all so sweet!  90% of the 45,000-60,000 acres of sugar beet farms are grown and processed in the Panhandle.  Weather and temperature dictate how much of the crop can be harvested at one time.  If the weather is too warm, the sugar beets will rot in their harvested piles.  If the weather is too wet, the pullers and trucks cannot get through the fields and the sugar beet roots will be too dirty.  Weather like hail will also damage and defoliate leaves of the plant causing the beets not to be able to grow. How do these farmers know how to produce so much sugar with such unpredictable weather patterns?  Beets me!  But they are really awesome at what they do. 

First, watch this video that shows how a sugar beet harvester works.

We might think of sugar just as an ingredient in sweet treats, but there is a lot of really cool science behind the behavior of sugar!  Watch how sugar can form large crystals over time with this edible experiment!

Here are some more fun sugar experiments!

Learn more about Nebraska here!


Oil Spills are disasters that can affect the environment in many unfortunate ways. Because oil stays separate from water due to their chemical make-up, removing the oil from water may seem like an easy task-but it’s harder than you think!  Use safflower seed oil, or any cooking oil, and see if you can find the most effective way to clean up an oil spill!

Something for Everyone

Nebraska Football is so popular among locals that when the Cornhuskers have a home game at Memorial Stadium, the population of Lincoln goes from 258,000 to nearly 400,000. This is just a few thousand fewer people than Omaha, Nebraska’s most populous city. This shows how much Nebraska loves their football team, and also how few people there are in Nebraska!

Assessment and Extended Response


  1. What was safflower originally grown for? (For the flowers which were used in making red and yellow dyes for clothing and food preparation)
  2. How do we get oil from safflower seeds? (It is extracted from the seeds in a machine called the oil press)


  1. How much sugar is produced in Nebraska each year? (Around 1.3 million tons)
  2. Can all the crop be harvested at one time?  (It depends on the weather and temperature conditions during harvest)

*Explain why the sugar crystallized on the wooden skewer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s