A University of Delaware researcher is looking at turning seashore mallow plants into biodiesel and ethanol.
Dr. John Gallagher, professor of Marine Biosciences and co-director of the Halophyte Biotechnology Center at UD’s College of Marine and Earth Studies says the seeds from the plant has oil traits similar to soybeans and cottonseed. And, as this AP story in the DelMarVa Daily Times explains, it grows in an area inhospitable to most other biodiesel sources:
“You don’t have to divert land that is presently used for producing food and feed to the process of making biodiesel,” said Gallagher, who runs UD’s Halophyte Biotechnology Center with his wife and fellow researcher, Denise Seliskar.
With the threat of sea water encroaching on farmland and coastal aquifers in response to global warming, Gallagher believes the seashore mallow could help preserve the economic value of arable land transitioning to marsh land.
The leftover mallow seed meal make a good livestock feed, and the plant body can then be turned into cellulosic ethanol. Meanwhile, the roots are made into an industrial gum.
“It’s almost like the pig of the vegetable world; you can use everything but the squeal,” Gallagher said, noting that the roots are efficient at sequestering carbon pulled from the atmosphere, making the plant a “carbon-neutral” source of energy.
Funding the research can be an issue, and Gallagher says he’s looking for help from the federal government and private industry.