GM oilseed turns poor quality farmland into rich source of industrial biofuel

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A Kansas State University biochemistry professor has reached a milestone in building a better biofuel: producing high levels of lipids with modified properties in oil seeds.

Timothy Durrett, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and collaborators at Michigan State University and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, have modified Camelina sativa—a nonfood oilseed crop—and produced the highest levels of modified seed lipids to date. The oil has reduced viscosity and improved cold temperature characteristics.

The goal of the research is to alter oilseeds to produce large amounts of modified oil that can be used as improved biofuels or even industrial and food-related applications.

Camelina can grow on poorer quality farmland, needs little irrigation or fertilizer and produces seeds that can provide gallons of oil, Durrett said. It also can be rotated with wheat and could become a biofuel crop for semi-arid regions, including western Kansas and Colorado.

“The basic problem is that most of our oilseed crops—such as canola or soybean—produce just a few fatty acids because we use them for nutritional needs,” Durrett said. “That’s great for a source of food, but makes doing any sort of chemistry more complicated.”

The researchers think that camelina oil is a renewable resource with potential industrial uses, including plasticizers, biodegradable lubricants and food emulsifiers.

Read full, original post: From the lab to the field: Biochemist studies oilseed plants for biofuel, industrial development

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