Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Morris, Minnesota » Soil Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #313596

Research Project: Enhancing Cropping System Sustainability Through New Crops and Management Strategies

Location: Soil Management Research

Title: Comparison of several Brassica species in the north central U.S. for potential jet fuel feedstock

Author
item Gesch, Russell - Russ
item Isbell, Terry
item Oblath, Emily
item Allen, Brett
item Archer, David
item Brown, J - University Of Idaho
item Hatfield, Jerry
item Jabro, Jalal "jay"
item Kiniry, James
item Long, Daniel
item Vigil, Merle

Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/4/2015
Publication Date: 10/19/2015
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/61656
Citation: Gesch, R.W., Isbell, T., Oblath, E.A., Allen, B.L., Archer, D.W., Brown, J., Hatfield, J.L., Jabro, J.D., Kiniry, J.R., Long, D.S., Vigil, M.F. 2015. Comparison of several Brassica species in the north central U.S. for potential jet fuel feedstock. Industrial Crops and Products. 75(B):2-7.

Interpretive Summary: The commercial airline industry and the U.S. Department of Defense are pushing to develop renewable fuels for aircraft use to replace petroleum-based fuels in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a reliable, domestically-produced source of alternative fuel. For aircraft fuel, few alternative options are practical and therefore a "drop-in" replacement similar to petroleum is needed. Hydrotreated Renewable Jet fuel (HRJ) made from plant oils by a patented process is one such option that has been proven to work. Large-scale production of HRJ, however, has not yet occurred because the cost of the fuel is slightly higher than petroleum, mainly due to the cost of producing the oil crop. There are several species of plants belonging to the mustard family (Brassicaceae) that can serve as feedstock for HRJ that may be cheaper to produce than food-grade commodity oil crops like soybean and sunflower thus, leading to a lower fuel cost. The most feasible area within the U.S. to expand production of oilseed feedstock for HRJ extends from the southern to the northern Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest where wheat-based cropping systems dominate. It is not known, however, what particular mustard species will work best to meet the needs for HRJ feedstock, and it’s probable that the most suitable specie(s) for a given region may vary. A study was conducted at Morris, MN, and is being replicated at seven other locations across the Plains region and Pacific Northwest to evaluate the agronomic production of a common set of mustard species varieties (a total of 18 varieties, representing 6 different species) to determine which is most suitable for HRJ feedstock for a given region. In MN, a commercial line of canola (Invigor L130) produced the greatest seed and oil yield. However, two varieties of Ethiopian mustard, which may be cheaper to produce than canola, also produced very high seed and oil yields in MN. As expected, other location in the study saw that other species/varieties performed better in their environments, indicating that the best choice of specie/variety of mustard oil crop will differ for a given environment and cropping system. These results will benefit the biofuel industry, oilseed breeders/geneticists, and agricultural scientists developing biofuel feedstocks.

Technical Abstract: Hydrotreated renewable jet fuel (HRJ) derived from crop oils has been commercially demonstrated but full-scale production has been hindered by feedstock costs that make the product more costly than petroleum-based fuels. Maintaining low feedstock costs while developing crops attractive to farmers to grow will be key to producing affordable HRJ and creating a dependable supply. Several Brassica oilseed species could potentially serve as feedstock, but selecting genotypes agronomically and economically best suited for a given region will likely differ with environment and current cropping systems. The primary objectives of this study were to evaluate seed and seed oil yields of 18 Brassica genotypes (6 winter and 12 spring types) representing six different species (Brassica napus, B. rapa, B. juncea, B. carinata, Sinapis alba, and Camelina sativa) and identify environmental factors that might limit their growth and oil production. The study was conducted during 2013 and 2014 in west central Minnesota, U.S. on a Barnes loam soil using a randomized complete block design with four replications. This study is part of a larger project focused on evaluating the same set of oilseeds across several locations spanning six different ecoregions in the U.S. Camelina (cv. Joelle) was the only autumn-sown winter type in the study that consistently survived the winter. It formed good stands and yielded from about 800 to 1000 kg ha-1 of seed. Seed yields for the 12 spring-sown crops ranged from 1000 to 3700 kg ha-1 in 2013 and 515 to 2020 kg ha-1 in 2014. The range in seed oil yield was 300 to 1590 kg ha-1 in 2013 and 200 to 885 kg ha-1 in 2014. Plant lodging was a serious issue in 2013, but it varied widely among genotypes. In west central Minnesota, certain B. napus canola lines and B. carinata produced the greatest seed and oil yields. Brassica carinata was the latest maturing specie in the study, produced the highest biomass, and tended to have low harvest indices, indicating ample room for yield improvement. For any given ecoregion, striking a balance among crop yield, agricultural input cost, and the best choice of specie/cultivar for a particular cropping system will be important for providing a reliable and affordable feedstock for HRJ.