Ohio State University researchers look at pennycress sustainability

August 4, 2021 |

In Ohio, growing pennycress—often called stinkweed—as a crop requires less fertilizer and fewer pesticides than other plants that can be used to make renewable jet fuel, according to a new study from researchers at Ohio State University. Pennycress also requires fewer farm operations, such as soil tilling, than other potential biofuel crops, reducing the associated environmental costs. Those costs include carbon dioxide emissions that cause the climate to change, as well as other emissions that pollute the air.

Environmental impacts could be further mitigated through farm management techniques that keep fertilizer on fields, rather than allowing it to run off into nearby watersheds, the study suggests. Such techniques can add to the financial cost of growing crops, but reduce their environmental footprints.

For this study, the researchers estimated the environmental impacts of growing pennycress, transporting it to a biorefinery and converting it to a usable jet fuel. They also accounted for the environmental costs of burning leftover byproducts of refining the pennycress seed into fuel.

Those environmental costs include fertilizer and pesticide use, water consumption and the energy required to harvest and transport pennycress seeds from a farm to a biorefinery and process them into usable fuel.

The researchers built computer models to determine how much total energy it would take to produce jet fuel from pennycress seeds and compared those estimates with the energy needed for producing biofuels from other crops. The data for the models came from existing studies about biofuel production.

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Category: Research

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