Project Focuses on Non-food Oilseeds for Fuel
CALS professor awarded $1.2 million grant
University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences oilseed breeder Jack Brown will use a $1.2 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to expand his research on the use of rapeseed and mustard cultivars to produce biofuels and other industrial products.
The project will focus on developing non-food grade oilseed crops that are suitable for making low cost biofuels and that are valuable to Pacific Northwest farmers and elsewhere as rotation crops.
Brown’s research team will also study the oilseed crops for genes responsible for the quantity and quality of oil produced and for resistance to blackleg fungus, a disease threat to oilseed production.
“The primary goal of this particular proposal is to increase desirability of the crop mainly by introducing disease resistance to blackleg,” Brown said.
Brown’s work during the last two decades to develop food- and fuel-focused Brassica oilseed crops across the region have turned farmlands into a spring and summer landscape of golden highlights.
The current research project envisions expanding non-food oilseed production to 1.2 million acres to yield 160 million gallons of fuel, 540,000 tons of livestock feed and nearly 180,000 tons of seed meal for use as a biopesticide to combat soil-borne crop pests such as nematodes.
Brown’s work previously has included developing oilseed varieties suitable for producing aviation fuel and evaluating the genomics of oilseed varieties for production and environmental characteristics like oil qualities and drought tolerance.
The new project will use bioinformatics — the use of powerful computing capabilities to track genomic data — to find pattern recognition receptor disease-resistance genes to create new varieties with durable resistance to blackleg.
Using the expertise among University of Idaho and Washington State University researchers in growing the oilseeds and using molecular biology to tailor new varieties for specific purposes is a major focus of the new project.
The team plans to identify new plant resistance genes and use genetic molecular marker selection tools to advance plant breeding methods, according to the grant.