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ARPA-E Grant Funds Development of Univ. Oil Plant Research

Flowering sorghum (Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

Flowering sorghum (Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

Arcadia Biosciences Inc. in Davis, California has received a $950,000 grant to develop technology that helps plants produce high levels of oil in their leaves and stems. That technology is based on research conducted at nearby University of California – Davis.

Vegetable oil is the most concentrated source of energy made by plants, but is usually made only in seeds. Plants that produce oil in leaves and stems, as well as in seed, can increase total energy production per acre and decrease the carbon footprint of resulting biofuels. These crops can offer a new source of sustainable transportation fuel.

The grant, from Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), will fund Aracadia Biosciences’ work to produce vegetable oil in plant leaves and stems, parts of plants not usually harvested as source of energy. On this project, the company will collaborate with Katie Dehesh, a plant biologist at University of California – Davis who conducts research on fatty acid biosynthetic enzymes, as well as genetic engineering of oil-producing plants.

The collaboration is expected to develop new crops, such as sorghum, that have high leafy biomass production per acre. Forage sorghum can also be grown on land not currently used for food crops. Development of sorghum varieties that generate oil in leaves and stems, particularly on marginal land, would significantly reduce the cost of base material for biodiesel production. Arcadia Biosciences says it has experience at enhancing the productivity of sorghum on non-food farmlands.

Read more: USDA, Energy Fund Research to Accelerate Biofuel Crops

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