Seeking alternative to fossil fuels, high-yielding heat and cold resistant biofuel crop potential genetic goldmine

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Image via New York Times.

Six years ago, jatropha—an inedible, drought-resistant plant that produces a high-quality oil—was “the next big thing in biofuel,” because its oil can be refined into low-carbon jet fuel or diesel fuel.  But it fell out of favor because of the financial crisis and its low seed yields.

Since then, scientists at SGB, a San Diego based biotech company, have sequenced the plant’s genome and traditionally bred different lines—successfully producing a domesticated plant with up to 900 percent yield increase of the oil-producing seeds.

SGB has also discovered a “potential genetic gold mine”—traits that make certain strains of the plant resistant to extreme heat or cold.

There are plans to plant 250,000 acres of jatropha in Brazil, India and other countries expected to eventually produce about 70 million gallons of fuel a year. That has attracted the interest of energy giants, airlines and other multinational companies seeking alternatives to fossil fuels. They see jatropha as a hedge against spikes in petroleum prices and as a way to comply with government mandates that require the use of low-carbon fuels.

Read the full, original story: Start-Up Uses Plant Seeds for a Biofuel

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