The Center for Sustainable Energy Farming (www.CfSEF.org), founded by Global Clean Energy Holdings of Los Angeles, Calif., is setting up shop at Penn State. The non-profit center aims to develop eco-friendly biofuel feedstocks.
The goal is to increase agricultural production, create a sustainable feedstock supply, reduce the use of pesticides, water and fertilizer, and develop new and sustainable biofuels, explains Mark Guiltinan, molecular biologist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. He'll serve as the center's chief scientific officer.
Initially, the center will focus on jatropha's potential as a bioenergy feedstock. It's a fast-growing, high-quality oilseed crop, suitable for production of biodiesel and bio-jetfuel.
Jatropha is a nonfood, tropical plant capable of growing on marginal soils with minimal inputs of agrichemicals, fertilizers and water. The center's goal is to increase jatropha productivity by 200% within 10 years, to be grown in the tropics.
The center will raise funding from new industry partnerships and will seek grants and donations from private and public agencies supporting plant science and international development projects. In turn, the center will provide grants to interdisciplinary collaborating scientists and support their work by providing access to a research field station in Yucatan, Mexico.
Studies sponsored by the center will build on jatropha research Penn State faculty have conducted in the last three years, funded in part by Ben Franklin Technology Partners' Translation Research in Energy Support Program. The scientists have established tissue-culture and greenhouse propagation systems, developed a genetic transformation system and isolated key genes for oil biosynthesis.