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FEATURED RESEARCH

Arid Lands Crops for Biofuels, Edible Oils and Biomaterials

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Curly Cup Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

Biofuels are receiving increasing interest due to the increasing cost of energy, as well as concerns about the global warming impacts from use of fossil fuels. Nevada's arid lands can potentially contribute to biofuels production, particularly for crops that have relatively low water requirements, and are adapted to Nevada's Great Basin growing conditions.

To our knowledge, no published studies have been conducted on growing crops suitable for biofuels production in Nevada, and this project will examine some of the most promising candidate crops. Two general approaches will be used.

The first is to grow crops that have been well-established in other areas of the western United States where the conditions are sufficiently similar to those of Nevada that we can reasonably expect that the crop can be grown here successfully. The three oil seed crops that will be initially investigated include, safflower, canola and camelina, a relatively new crop that has received extensive investigation in Montana. Each of these crops has been grown as edible oil crops, and the varieties have been optimized for nutritional value, and consumer acceptance. Each of these crops can be processed by a combination of pressing the seeds to extrude the oil and solvent extraction.

The second approach is to examine a high oil-containing plant, gumweed, which grows in the wild in Nevada. A previous study has compared the hydrocarbon (oil production) of several wild plants in Nevada, and gumweed was shown to be the best of this group. Unlike the previous crops, this plant has not been used for edible oils, and the oil would only be available for biofuels, and potentially other non-food products.

During the second and third year of this study, the crops (and varieties) selected for examination will depend on the results of the first trials, including water consumption, and the goal is to determine which crop(s) will provide the highest financial return for the producer.

 

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