The newly formed Southern Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata (SPARC), a consortium of 70+ members across 6 states held their Annual Meeting in Quincy this past week. A $15 million dollar , 5-year grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in the USDA brought together numerous university and industry partners in a unique private-public partnership to advance carinata as a potential renewable biofuel for jet airplanes.
Members include researchers conducting field experiments in 15 locations on agronomic production issues like varieties, spacing, fertilizer, herbicide resistance, disease susceptibility, oil content, and frost tolerance. A unique aspect of this collaboration in the SPARC is how it integrates workstream groups to include chemistry-focused fuel teams, extension, animal science, sociology, economics, and supply chain logistics experts who can understand and communicate their progress for the whole project. With strong and urgent demand worldwide for alternative energy projects, SPARC enters the space for integrated solutions at the right time.
Considering the global focus on carbon’s impact on climate and a growing movement towards sustainability in production and marketing, the production of a biofuel in the southeast seems prescient. With some 800,000 acres across the south as potential area for expansion, carinata provides an economic and environmental alternative to “weedy fallow” and current unsustainable crop rotations. As carbon indexing (CI) brings attention to the footprint of new crops and practices like this, more consumers and marketing groups are eager to see concrete data on just what ecosystem benefits (including cash crop yield bumps) may result.
Stay tuned for more, as this project is a great example of how research connects with extension to benefit farmer livelihoods. And keep an eye out for winter fields of yellow!