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Genomic Science Program

Systems Biology for Energy and the Environment

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Genomic Science Program

2014 Awardee

Biofuels in the Arid West: Germplasm Development for Sustainable Production of Camelina Oilseed

INVESTIGATORS: John McKay (PI), Edgar Cahoon, Luca Comai, Timothy Durrett, Jack Mullen

INSTITUTIONS: Colorado State University, University of Nebraska Lincoln, University of California Davis, Kansas State University

PROJECT SUMMARY: The Great Plains and Western US hold great potential to make a significant contribution to the production of bioenergy if regionally appropriate feedstocks can be developed. In this region, rainfall and irrigation are limited. The emerging crop Camelina sativa has the potential to become an important biofuel oilseed crop for the extensive dryland farming regions of the West. Camelina has a number of properties that make it an already adequate oilseed-based biofuel feedstock for this region, including low input requirements. Camelina is also not widely used as a food crop, although the meal co-products are valuable as animal feed. In addition, though the species has received almost no modern breeding, the oil content of Camelina seeds is already nearly 40%, which is twice that of soybean. We focus on development of Camelina as a crop to be grown on marginal farmland with relatively low fertilizer inputs and limited or no irrigation.

Despite its numerous positive attributes recommending it as a biofuel feedstock for semi-arid areas, needs for improvement of agronomic and oil quality traits remain. To maximize productivity and sustainability in the face of climate change, Camelina requires improved drought and heat tolerance to fit within dryland and limited irrigation agriculture. Although Camelina has many optimal qualities as an oilseed feedstock, there is room for improvement to optimize performance as a fuel with minimal processing. These needs can be achieved by genetics and motivate the research goals of this proposal. The Camelina genome has just been sequenced and assembled, providing the framework for targeted genetic manipulation. Here we seek to leverage this newly available genome, using forward and reverse genetics and natural variation to combine optimal qualities for an oilseed feedstock in the Great Plains and Western US.

PROJECT CONTACT:
Name: McKay, John
Phone: 970-491-5730
Email: john.mckay@colostate.edu

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