GM, DOE team on Jatropha for biodiesel

  • 07-May-2010 01:26 EDT

Considered a weed, the Jatropha plant produces oil that can be refined into biodiesel.

General Motors Co. recently announced a five-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to help develop the potential of the Jatropha plant as a sustainable biofuel energy crop. Traditionally considered a weed, Jatropha plants produce an oil that can be refined into biodiesel. The goal of the project is to demonstrate that Jatropha can produce significant quantities of oil for conversion to biodiesel and to develop new varieties of the plant that have high yields, can withstand frost, and can grow in temperate climates such as that of the U.S. The drought-resistant, nonedible plant can be grown commercially with minimal care on marginal land, according to GM. Two Jatropha farms will be established in India: a 16-ha (40-acre) plot in Bhavngar and a 38-ha (94-acre) plot in Kalol, near GM's India Car Manufacturing facility. An existing 30-ha (74-acre) Jatropha farm in Bhavnagar also will be managed under this project. Lab-optimized strains of the plant, produced through selective and marker-assisted breeding, will be cultivated at these farms. A complete life-cycle analysis will be conducted to evaluate the environmental impacts, starting with fertilizer production from raw materials and ending with the harvesting of Jatropha fruits.

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