Peoria County, Illinois – A biofuels company is examining the possibility of making biodiesel from an invasive weed whose seed contains about twice as much oil as soybeans.

Biofuels Manufacturers of Illinois (BMI) is targeting the use of field pennycress, also known as stinkweed. The plant is a member of the mustard family and contains sufficient quantities of glucosinolates to be toxic to cattle in large quantities. Unlike corn and soybeans, pennycress is planted in the fall and grows the following spring, giving farmers the opportunity to grow two crops on the same land each year. BMI grew the crop on 70 acres in 12 test sites in central Illinois this year.

A 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that wild pennycress seed contains 36 per cent oil, with physical properties that indicate continued development of the oil as a biodiesel is warranted. The department currently has further studies on the weed ongoing through 2010.

BMI anticipates that if it is approved for loan guarantees in Illinois, the company could break ground on a biodiesel plant as early as August. The plant will begin conventionally using soy and vegetable oils, and integrate pennycress gradually into the stream.

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