Jim Marois, Professor of Plant Pathology, NFREC-Quincy
Researchers at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) are working on a new winter crop for the Southeast U.S. Ethiopian mustard, Brassica carinata is an oil seed crop that can be used to make an excellent biofuel.
Because Ethiopian mustard is a cool season crop, it could be grown in rotation with the traditional warm season crops grown in the region. The plant looks a lot like canola, with similar production techniques, planting in the fall and harvesting by April. Ethiopian mustard produces a unique oil that can quickly be converted to a 100 percent drop-in jet fuel.
NFREC Scientists have received several grants, one from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), to develop it as a crop. They are cooperating with Applied Research Associates, an engineering firm in Panama City, for the fuel conversion technology, and Agrisoma Biosciences, a Canadian plant breeding firm, has developed the breeding lines. NFREC Scientists will be testing over 6000 lines at NFREC-Quincy this winter, and have contracted a 25 acre field plot with a farmer in Calhoun County. The goal is to identfy lines able to produce 200 gallons of fuel per acre. They are also looking at feeding the by-product press cake to cattle as a feed supplement. This research will be conducted at the feed efficiency facilities at NFREC-Marianna. NFREC Scientists are also interested in the possibility that Ethiopian mustard will improve soil conservation as a winter cover crop, and possibly even reduce nematodes the following season.
If successful, Ethiopian mustard could offer a new income stream to farmers in the Southeast. Especially since it can be grown on land that has traditionally been fallow, or used only for cover crops during the winter.