Biofuel potential of Jatropha detailed in HudsonAlpha seminar

Robert Schmidt, PhD, discussed his company’s research on Jatropha, a plant that has received significant attention as a possible biofuel. Schmidt is the founder of Resolute Genetics, and he has spent years working on developing Jatropha’s potential.

Farmers have cultivated Jatropha for centuries for a variety of uses, including fertilizer and medicinals. However, perhaps its most relevant historical uses come from its oils, which can produce candles and soaps, but can also be burned for biofuel. Industry leaders have thoroughly tested the plant, which in its earliest iterations did not generate the yield needed to make it economically viable as a biofuel. Schmidt says his company has since put in a great deal of effort reintroducing biodiversity for the commercial crops, by traveling to Central America to find a number of different types of the plant, then breeding them into the commercial lines.

The plant checks a lot of important boxes to make it a biofuel candidate. It’s drought tolerant, as it naturally grows in regions with rainy and dry seasons. It also matures quickly and grows with seperate male and female flowers, making it easier to selectively breed. There’s still work to be done and energy prices as a whole are an important variable for making biofuels viable, but Jatropha shows a great deal of promise.

This seminar was hosted by Kankshita Swaminathan, PhD.

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