Case IH biodiesel research grant winner announced

By: Graham Gardiner

A project aiming to develop biodiesel feedstock that does not compete with food crops and which can be grown in

A project aiming to develop biodiesel feedstock that does not compete with food crops and which can be grown in dry conditions has won the $10,000 Case IH Biodiesel Research Grant.

The winning project, submitted by Australian Agricultural Crop Technologies, will attempt to find an improved Indian mustard seed cultivar suitable for use in biodiesel production.

Case IH Marketing Manager Stuart Brown says the project will address one of the critical issues of biodiesel production. "Biodiesels can’t be produced without sufficient and appropriate feedstock. Supply has been a major problem – in fact, five Australian biodiesel plants have ceased operation because of the lack of reliable, consistent feedstock.

"Australian Agricultural Crop Technologies is working on improving Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) cultivars for sustainable biodiesel production in dryer environments.

"Basically, they’re trying to develop a crop that is suitable for use only in biodiesel production, and which can be grown on land that couldn’t sustain a food crop. This excellent project will help address the food versus fuel debate at the same time as helping meet the need for biodiesel crops."

The grant will be used to accelerate the commercial development of this long-term project. Australian Agricultural Crop Technologies was also successful in gaining a $10,000 grant from the NSW Department of Lands. Lands Minister Tony Kelly established the government grant program after endorsing the Case IH program.

Project leader Daryl Young says the project involves two streams – a plant breeding component based near Narrabri in New South Wales, and a crushing, manufacturing and testing component. Both parts of the project are being run in conjunction with Sydney University.

"The Case IH funding will pay for assessment of the oil quality through laboratory testing at Sydney University," he says.

Grant funding for this kind of research is essential, Young adds. "It speeds the whole process up. If money was not an issue, we’d probably already have a commercial cultivar out there."

He believes research into biodiesel is vital for our society. "Fossil fuels are such an important part of our economy, but science has clearly established that it’s not an unlimited supply. Ethically and environmentally, it’s a critical area of research."

Brown says Case IH is delighted by the breadth and quality of applications for the grant. "We received a very wide range of applications from across the country, some from large research institutes, some from farming organisations and some from individuals.

"For instance, students at a Tafe campus in regional Victoria are hoping to investigate the cultivation of oilseed crops on irrigated land.

"We also received an application from a researcher who is looking to resolve the issues around cold weather start up of machinery run on biodiesels. Many biodiesels currently available can’t be used in very cold weather but an ACT based researcher is investigating solutions to this problem.

"And in Western Australia, a renewable fuels organisation is working on developing a simple testing kit to ensure biodiesels are meeting required standards."

The Case IH Biodiesels Research Grant was established this year as part of Case IH’s ongoing commitment to the agricultural industry. Stuart says with fossil fuels running out, the agricultural community needs to start looking for real alternatives.

"Biodiesel will not provide all the answers to every environmental and fuel crisis concern, but it will be an important part of the solution," Stuart says. "We hope that this grant will help advance research so that in time biodiesel will become a more realistic option for farmers."

The grant program complements Case IH’s existing efforts to support the use of biodiesel. It is already possible to use biodiesel (in various percentages) in all Case IH equipment, and the company is continually working on engine technology so that future biodiesel engines will be as gutsy and productive as their conventional diesel equivalents.

In addition to offering the grant funding, Case IH has developed a series of seminars about improving fuel systems maintenance, a vital first step towards preparing farmers for future biodiesel use.

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