Nevada Dividends!

Developing Biofuel Feedstock Tailored to Nevada’s Arid Climate


The long-term goal of the proposed research is to develop a number of drought tolerant species (e.g., curly top gumweed, camelina, and prickly pear cactus) into new biofuels and feed crops adapted to our arid western region. Our vision is to create novel biofuel feedstock production platforms with increased energy density within vegetative tissues that is capable of producing biodiesel, renewable diesel, or jet fuel with minimal water inputs required for traditional biofuel feedstocks.

What has been done?

The research efforts conducted over the past year are the culmination of numerous activities. In the lab, bacterial enzymes have been introduced into two model plants (mouse-ear cress and Yarrow) to boost the hydrocarbon production. Mutant populations of Camelina (aka, wild flax) were produced that are free of gelatinous mucilage well into the sixth generation of propagation. Third generation mutants were also screened for a suite of promising traits. This includes altered fatty acid compositions, rapid completion of ontology, shade tolerance, and greater plant densities. Addition work was conducted on Camelina mutants tolerant to glyphosate herbicides.

Field and greenhouse varietal trials are well underway for Camelina, Curly Top Gumweed, and Prickly Pear Cactus.


Based upon Camelina field trials for seed production and oil content, our scientist are now recommending that producers of northern Nevada go with Celine, Columbia or Suneson varieties. Research into transgenic lines of Camelina has increase seed size by 40%, which translates into high oil content per seed. This line of research has also created a rapid cycler variety that should serve as an outstanding cover crop.

The biofuels team has created a gas exchange apparatus in collaboration with local manufacturer Tripp Plastics that will assist scientists interested in measuring gases produced during Prickly Pear Cactus development.

Finally, an interactive educational display was created (Bio-Energy Crops for Semi-Arid Environment) that introduces participants to common biofuel feedstocks found in Nevada and the oils produced.


John Cushman

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

1664 North Virginia Street

Reno, Nevada   89557


Phone: (775) 784-1918


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