Photo: UF IFASThe University of Florida project will identify and deploy regionally adapted carinata (an oilseed member of the mustard family) as the basis of a biofuel.
UF Alligator News Release
Seed research project offers alternative to fossil fuels
The project got a $15 million federal grant
UF researchers are working on literally planting seeds of change for the future of sustainable energy.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture granted $15 million to the Southeast Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata (SPARC) to study the potential applications of oil from carinata seeds. The project, which began seven years ago and received the grant about three months ago, is directed by David Wright, a professor in UF’s agronomy department.
“The oil quality is really what makes carinata great,” he said.
The seed’s oils would provide an alternative to fossil fuels, Wright said. The chemical structure of the seed makes it excellent for production of jet fuel and diesel, as well as a protein supplement for livestock feed, he said.
Carinata seeds have about 40 to 45 percent oil, Wright said, as opposed to 18 percent in soybean seeds. It is also more tolerant of heat and droughts than canola, which makes it a more viable solution for growers.
The oil content is not the only benefit carinata offers, Wright said. The project will evaluate the seed’s benefits to farmlands in the colder months. Having seeds growing in the off-season can boost income for farmers, he said.
“That has been one of our big goals — is to not only provide income for growers in the winter, but also to have a crop growing on the land to help reduce erosion,” Wright said.
While the seed may be the best option among other sources of biofuel, it will still have to compete in the market against big oil and other non-renewable resources, Wright said.
Jessica Webster, a 20-year-old UF plant science junior, said the competition raises concern about the potential product’s viability.
“I do think it’s going to be expensive at first because it’s a new product,” said Webster, a 20-year-old UF plant science junior. “Not many farmers are inclined to change their habits, especially if they’ve gone through a famine.”
This article is from Alligator.org.