Our library of genetic material provides an unprecedented opportunity to push this undomesticated crop to its full potential, said Kirk Haney, president and chief executive officer for SG Biofuels. We already have identified many strains whose characteristics suggest we’ve only scratched the surface for the production capabilities of Jatropha.

Jatropha curcas is a non-edible plant that is native to Central America. Its seeds comprise of high amounts of oil that can be used for a variety of bio-based materials including biodiesel and feedstock substitutes for the petrochemical and jet fuel industries. It can be effectively grown on discarded lands that are unsuitable for other crops.

The company’s team of genetic scientists, led by Robert Schmidt of the University of California, San Diego comprises three members of the National Academy of Sciences. Through its GRC, SG Biofuels has started assessing thousands of diverse accessions of Jatropha obtained from a range of geographical and climatic conditions.

Research efforts comprise choosing and breeding, and the company has generated hybrids among genetically distinct lines to address such issues as yield, cold tolerance and resistance to insect pests. A range of opportunities are present to improve Jatropha oil yield and develop improved strains, including those that can additionally improve production in colder climates of southern and southwestern US.

With proper location selection and agronomic practices, oil yields of 200-300 gallons of extractable oil a acre are realistic. Additionally, Jatropha has very-low input costs relative to other biofuel feedstocks, which makes Jatropha profitable with current yields.

Based on early returns from our genetic research, as well as experience with other similar, undomesticated crops, we are confident we can double the yield of Jatropha within the next few years, said Haney.