A plant normally considered a weed is moving ever closer to becoming a cover crop that can be used both as a component in biofuels and livestock feeds.
Research effort funded to the tune of $10 million by the United States Department of Agriculture is focusing on turning the golden pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) into a potential money-maker.
American scientists have developed it as a winter-annual cash cover crop for use by the biofuel industry.
The five-year project is led by investigators at Western Illinois University, who are working with researchers from Illinois State University, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, University of
Minnesota and industrial partner Cover-Cress Inc.
Since receiving initial funding, the research team has made significant ad-vances in developing golden pennycress into a crop that will benefit farmers in the American mid-west.
The alternative crop is planted immed-iately following corn harvest.
In addition to breeding work that improved varieties of pennycress, research is underway to evaluate storage methods, the quantity and quality of oil extracted, and the shelf life of pennycress oil.
Additionally, both oil and meal will be studied to determine uses for fuel, feed and food applications.
Farmers’ adoption of golden pennycress will hinge on their ability to integrate it into their existing crop production systems while exposing their operations to minimal economic risks.
CoverCress is well on its way to successfully commercialising golden penny-
cress as an oilseed biofuel crop grown in the northern Corn Belt.
The company plans a commercial launch of seed this year.
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