USDA Researching Pennycress’ Biodiesel Potential

John Davis

Many people know pennycress as nothing more than a weed, but some folks with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are looking at its potential to become a biodiesel feedstock.

This article from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service says scientists at the ARS’ Peoria, Illinois office are trying to make the farmers’ pest into their cash crop:

There, a team of ARS scientists led by Terry Isbell has been researching the annual winter weed’s potential to yield a bumper crop of oil-rich seed for use in making biodiesel and other products, including an organic fertilizer and natural fumigant. Historically, pennycress has been a bane to farmers. But now, with America’s quest for “homegrown” alternatives to petroleum, the plant is getting a second look.

In July, Peoria-based Biofuels Manufacturers of Illinois, LLC (BMI) entered into a two-year cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with ARS to conduct laboratory and field trials aimed at teasing out pennycress’s production characteristics as both a cultivated crop and biodiesel feedstock.

Isbell and his colleagues in the ARS New Crops and Processing Technology Research Unit at Peoria have found that a single acre of field pennycress can potentially produce 75 to 100 gallons of biodiesel.

Biodiesel, Government