SG Biofuels unveils jatropha cultivar

By Lisa Gibson
Posted February 23, 2010, at 10:34 a.m. CST

California-based SG Biofuels has launched JMax 100, a proprietary cultivar of jatropha optimized for growing conditions in Guatemala with yields 100 percent greater than existing varieties, according to the company.

SG Biofuels is a plant oil company specializing in the development of jatropha as a low-cost, sustainable source of oil and has the largest library of jatropha genetic materials in the world. JMax 100 is the first elite cultivar developed through the company's JMax Jatropha Optimization Platform, which provides growers and plantation developers with access to the highest-yielding and most profitable jatropha, the sequenced genome and advanced biotech and synthetic biology tools to develop cultivars specifically optimized for their unique growing conditions, according to SG Biofuels.

JMax 100 increases the profitability of jatropha to greater than $400 per acre, more than 300 percent above existing commercial varieties. That equates to more than 350 gallons per acre at $1.39 per gallon, according to SG Biofuels. "JMax 100 is the tip of the iceberg in the development of jatropha as a renewable energy crop," said Kirk Haney, SG Biofuels president and CEO. He added that Guatemala has a head start, but the company anticipates advancements through the JMax platform that will further enhance the profitability and productivity of jatropha for growers around the world.

SG Biofuels will continue to work with partners and collaborators to optimize JMax for region-specific planting through the establishment of in-region technology centers, it said. In addition to its work in Guatemala, SG Biofuels is collaborating with the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center to develop a customized jatropha cultivar that can be used to the meet the demand for locally grown renewable fuel. Jatropha is a global market leader for fuel production and may be the only near-term solution for renewable fuel, Haney said. It can grow on marginal land and is limited only by a few factors, including its lack of tolerance for cold temperatures. But SG Biofuels' research seeks to solve that problem, along with enhance other jatropha traits, such as oil content and seed size.

The shrub is native to Central America and its seeds contain high amounts of oil that can be refined using existing technology to produce diesel fuel, jet fuel and specialty chemicals.