Home > Legumes Set to Fuel Industry Sustainability and Alternative Energy Revolution.

Legumes Set to Fuel Industry Sustainability and Alternative Energy Revolution.

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With crude oil now US$75 barrel, legumes set to fuel industry sustainability and alternative energy revolution. Research shows the humble legume could lead the way to future industry sustainability, with oils extracted from soybeans and peanuts shown to be a valuable source for biodiesel production.

According to research presented at Science Week in Brisbane, legumes offer enormous potential for an environmentally friendly and viable alternative fuel solution, giving hope to legume farmers throughout Australia and those seeking new market opportunities.

Leader in legume biotechnology research and Director of the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence for Integrative Legume Research, Professor Peter Gresshoff, said momentum behind alternative fuels is gathering closer to home, providing opportunities for Australian growers in a globally competitive market.

"Given increasing pressure for environmentally friendly products and increasing fuel prices, the demand for renewable fuels is escalating rapidly in Australia. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Australian Federal Government has set a 350 megalitre target for renewable fuels by 2010," Prof Gresshoff said.

"The focus to date has been on ethanol blends made from sugar and petrol, but our research shows that the biggest potential environmental rewards are diesel alternatives made from grain legumes, such as peanuts and soybeans," Prof Gresshoff said.

Although biodiesel can also be produced from oilseed plants such as canola, the research presented today at the opening of Science Week shows that legumes can be seriously considered as a potential fuel alternative.

The major reason for the advantage of legumes is it s ability to manufacture its own nitrogen fertilizer (through a collaboration with soil bacteria in root nodules). This is in contrast to canola, wheat and sugar cane, which requires fertilizer – costing valuable fossil fuel energy.

"The Australian agricultural industry now faces the challenge of supplying the growing biodiesel market with sufficient volumes of consistently high quality product. This is a valuable opportunity to decrease national dependence on foreign petroleum, increase efficient and sustainable production of domestically grown crops and significantly boost agricultural revenue," Prof Gresshoff said.

"However many oilseed legumes suffer from only average yields under Australian conditions. Our research shows that increased effort is needed to adapt the growth habits and architecture of the legume plant to optimize oil output," Prof Gresshoff said.

Bayer CropScience , who is a major sponsor of Science Week 2006, supports plant biotechnology as a key driver in the creation of novel products to meet the ever increasing demands for renewable resources in the sectors of nutrition, healthcare and biomaterials. (However, Bayer CropScience is not directly focusing on developing grain legumes in Australia).

"New market opportunities for the supply of biofuels already exist in both Australia and worldwide," Sam Howard, Managing Director of Bayer CropScience said.

"Bayer CropScience is committed to a partnership with Australian farmers to deliver high yielding crops of consistent quality to meet the needs of current and future food, feed and fibre markets.

"By working together, I am certain the industry can meet the global challenges of tomorrow and remain internationally competitive and sustainable in the long-term," Mr Howard said.

Bayer CropScience develops and supplies innovative agricultural technologies and solutions focused on enhancing crop productivity, improving crop quality and reducing crop losses to pests, weeds and diseases. These technologies include crop protection and public health products, conventional seeds and seeds enhanced through biotechnology.

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