University of Florida Researchers Focus on Biofuel Crop?

Dan Biofuels/Energy, Florida, Research, Specialty Crops

Brassica carinata
UF/IFAS image

(NSF/Tallahassee, FL/April 11, 2022) — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) are studying ways to scale up production of a crop that can be used for things such as renewable jet fuel.

Carinata is an oilseed crop that is closely related to the mustard family of plants. The crop is not used to produce food for humans, but is uniquely suited to be converted into biofuel.

Sheeja George, PhD
Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Program Manager

Sheeja George, an agricultural scientist who is leading research efforts on the crop at the UF/IFAS facility in Gadsden County, said that oil and fatty acid found in carinata are part of what makes it suitable to yield fuels. “It’s called a drop-in fuel, meaning you don’t have to do anything to the existing infrastructure for this fuel to work. You take today’s jet engine, and you can blend it with today’s petroleum, and boom, drop it into the engine and it will work,” George said during a demonstration for reporters in Quincy on Monday.


Working with farmers in North Florida and the surrounding region, George and other researchers with UF/IFAS are providing information about how to optimize the process of growing carinata for farmers who grow other crops. George said carinata’s ability to grow during the winter is part of what makes it a potentially desirable and lucrative crop for farmers in Southeastern states. “It goes in the ground in fall, middle of November, and comes out in May,” George said. “That’s typically when nobody grows anything over here. And that’s a shame, because we get like 60 inches of rainfall here in the Southeast. Our winters are mild, we don’t freeze out like the midwest, and we have great soil.”

The Florida Department of Agriculture nearly a decade ago gave UF/IFAS its first round of funding to begin research on the carinata, according to George. Since then, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has poured more research dollars into studying the plant. The federal government has set a goal to ramp up production of biofuel in the coming decades.

By The News Service of Florida

UF/IFAS is leading a new program is investigating Carinata as a potentially profitable winter cover crop for the southeastern U.S.. This joint public private partnership is called the Southeastern Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata, or SPARC, is funded by a five year, $15 million dollar NIFA grant. It brings together researchers from nine universities, private companies and industry stakeholders. Learn more about this remarkable new crop.