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A mustard variety for biodiesel production

Scientists at the CSIC's Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible  have developed a mustard variety very resistant to draught and heat. It can be used for biodiesel production in marginal farmlands thus avoiding competence with food crops. Industrial partners are sought for license agreements.



Experimental crops with the new mustard variety.One of the undesirable effects of biofuel obtained from food crops is that they increase and distort the food prices. It happened in 2007 with corn, which turned into Mexico’s notorious tortilla crisis. Competence between biodiesel crops and food crops also appears in the use of lands, when large fields are used for energy crops, which eventually affect food availability and its prices.

The alternative is to use poor and marginal farmlands that are not suitable for food crops. That is the main goal of a research project at the Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible. Led by the CSIC scientist Leonardo Velasco Varo, the team has obtained and registered a variety of Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata) specially developed for biodiesel production.

The variety has been obtained by genetic improvement through germ plasm enhancement. It is resistant to draught and hot temperatures, what makes it possible to cultivate it in poor lands therefore avoiding the competence with food crops. Also, it has been specially improved to have high seed production with autumn sowing conditions in areas with a mild winter.

High productivity in poor lands

Scientists have registered, in experimental crops, an average yield of 2,7 tonnes of seeds per hectare, a better result than the one obtained with other control varieties (2,1 tonnes of seeds per hectae).   

The oil obtained from the seeds is not edible but very suitable for biodiesel production since it has a high proportion of erucic acid (up to 45%). Also, the flour obtained after oil extraction can be useful for fumigation, as it has a high content in glucosinolates, molecules that are natural biocides.

As scientists explain, “in tropical areas, biodiesel production is based on cotton or oil palm crops. In mild areas, biodiesel can be obtained from sunflower or soya. But it is necessary to find alternative crops which are suitable for marginal farmlands, with a high productivity and that don’t imply competition with food crops”.

This research has been supported by the former Ministry of Science and Innovation and developed in the frame of the project “Proyecto Singular Estratégico On Cultivos (PSE-120000-2008-4)”. During the work, the scientific team has also obtained another mustard variety suitable for biomass production.


Yolanda Hernando
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