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Biomass and high value molecules from mustard

The CSIC’S Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible has obtained and patented a new mustard plant variety that can be used for simultaneously obtaining biomass and high-value compounds. Seed and biomass companies are sought for license agreements.



The new mustard variety on experimental crops. Biomass for energy production is one of the alternatives to fossil fuels. On the one hand, it has the advantage of less CO2 emission than conventional diesel. On the other hand, biomass crops absorb CO2, therefore the final balance of emissions is expected to be lower than fossil fuels. It is also considered an interesting option for rural development.

Nevertheless, it has controversial aspects, the most important one is the competence that biomass crops suppose for food and feed. Firstly, if fields traditionally used for food are used for biomass this can have as a consequence the displacement of food crops to other places (woods, fields, peatlands), which would cause an unexpected increase in CO2 emissions. Secondly, some critics of biomass point out that its production is not always compatible with a local and sustainable production and that would bring about imports and exports, and an abusive use of the soil.

Spanish scientists at the CSIC’s Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible have obtained a new plant variety of Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata) suitable for energy production from lignocellulosic biomass and high value compounds. The variety shows huge vegetative growth and late flowering. It is well suited to autumn sowing conditions in areas with a mild winter, resistant to drought and high temperature and adapted to growing in marginal lands. It can avoid therefore the competence with food crops. It is, also, very resistant to plagues and diseases.

In Andalucía, a mild winter area at the south of Spain, experimental crops have had an average yield of 20 tonnes of dry matter per hectare while other available varieties produce an average of 14 tonnes per hectare.

The variety developed is very suitable for biomass production for energy production either as the only source or in combination with biomass from other sources.

Apart from that, another advantage is the possibility of obtaining high value compounds from the plant before obtaining the biomass, what makes the crop financially more interesting. “The Ethiopian mustard”, says Leonardo Velasco Varo, the main scientist of the project, ”has a high proportion of compounds interesting for biotechnological applications, such as anthocyanins, used for food and pharmaceutical production, and glucosinolates, used as natural biocides and pest treatments for agriculture.

The new variety has been obtained in the research project “On Cultivos”:


Yolanda Hernando
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