Guayule, a hearty shrub that grows abundantly in areas of the US Southwest where most plants can’t.
OSU’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) will use the grant for a three-year project to develop a biodiesel from hydrocarbons in two draught-resistant plants, sweet sorghum and guayule.
The grant was awarded through DOE’s program, Plants Engineered to Replace Oil (PETRO). OSU partners with Chromatin, Inc. in Chicago, a developer of energy-crop feedstocks and leader of the project.
The hydrocarbons found in guayule and sweet sorghum are easily extracted and can be cheaply converted into a renewable transportation fuel. OARDC’s role is the genetic engineering of the plants to boost production of farnesene, a natural plant oil to be converted into a biodiesel.
“We will use quayule as a model to study and perfect production of the farnesene molecule inside the plant,” says quayule expert and OSU’s endowed chair in bioemergent materials, Katrina Cornish. “Guayule is a very good model because it already produces and stores a lot of hydrocarbons in the form of resin in its stems and branches.”
Cornish and her colleague Josh Blakeslee, an OARDC biochemical physiologist, will genetically engineer the plant to divert more resin into farnesene. As the model to divert the resin is optimized, research partners at Chromatin will be simultaneously applying the model to sweet sorghum.
Ultimately, the goal is to manipulate guayule and sweet sorghum to produce an estimated 20% of their dry weight as farnesene, which is then extracted and hydrogenated to farnesane fuel.
Farnesane fuel has advantages over existing biofuels. Because the hydrocarbon is produced in the stalks and branches of the plants, these crops generate much higher yields than soybean and canola biodiesel crops, which use only their seeds to produce the vegetable oils converted to biofuels.
Similarly, guayule and sweet sorghum could produce more than twice the comparable energy yield of ethanol from corn in a way that bypasses the intensive process of starch milling, mixing with water and enzymes, fermentation, and distillation involved in making corn ethanol.
“We are trying to have the plant make its own readily accessible liquid biofuel,” Blakeslee said. “This will allow for a straight extraction process, basically squeezing the fuel out of the plant. Additionally, hydrocarbons burn better than alcohol fuels such as ethanol. This fuel will be more comparable to petroleum-based diesel in its performance.”
Guayule and sweet sorghum need little water or fertilizer and can be farmed on up to 2l7,000,000 acres of marginal land in two geographically distinct areas of the US, thus diversifying biofuel feedstock supply and land use with little impact on food crops.
Estimates say farnesane fuel could cost less than $50 per barrel of petroleum equivalent. The project partners estimate that planting the full 271,000,000 acres could theoretically produce 30% of US annual energy needs.
To read about OSU’s recent successes in bringing other biofuels to market, go to
ANAEROBICALLY DIGESTED GARBAGE: FILL’ER UP AT $2.25 A GALLON at https://mytakeontoday.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/osu-part-ii-of-iii-anaerobically-digested-garbage-40-cheaper-than-gasoline-at-3-90-per-gallon/
ANAEROBICALLY DIGESTED GARBAGE: 40% CHEAPER THAN GASOLINE COSTING $3.90 PER GALLON at https://mytakeontoday.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/osu-part-ii-of-iii-anaerobically-digested-garbage-40-cheaper-than-gasoline-at-3-90-per-gallon/
ANAEROBICALLY DIGESTED GARBAGE: RENEWABLE, SUSTAINABLE, NO DRILLING at https://mytakeontoday.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/osu-part-iii-of-iii-anaerobically-digested-garbage-renewable-sustainable-no-drilling/
from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, press release June 15, 2012