Evogene, SLC Agricola expand castor development agreement

By Erin Voegele | December 19, 2011

Israel-based Evogene Ltd. and Brazil-based SLC Agricola S.A. recently announced the companies will expand their agreement for the development of castor bean seeds, which will be cultivated for biodiesel feedstock. According to the companies, the expansion follows the successful completion of field trials for such varieties in northeast Brazil during 2011. Under the expanded agreement, Evogene and SLC Agricola will continue to evaluate Evogene’s castor varieties in its farm locations in Brazil. The goal is to identify the best performing varieties and agronomic practices suitable for commercial-scale production.

The two companies began to collaborate in 2010, focusing on the development of advanced castor seeds that display high oil yields under rain-fed conditions that are suitable for sustainable and commercial production in Brazil. According to information released by Evogene, the recently completed field trials have shown that the proprietary castor varieties developed by Evogene have demonstrated improved yield potential and performance when compared to existing cultivars.

“We are developing a new alternative crop to plant as a second crop after the soybean harvest,” said Aurelio Pavinato, CEO of SLC Agricola. “Also, it can be another source of oil to maximize the production of biodiesel at the cotton seed oil industry.”

According to information posted to Evogene’s website, work on castor beans is part of its biofuel program, which aims to develop second generation feedstocks for biodiesel and biojet production. The company states that it is working to transform the plant into a modern, fully mechanized crop that displays high productivity when grown under rain-fed conditions. The website further states that Evogene is using an integrated approach to improve the crop that combines proprietary tools for breeding with agricultural technologies to develop better castor varieties  and growth protocols.

Information published by Evogene also states that field trails are currently being conducted in several regions of the world, including Israel, Brazil and the U.S. Brazilian trials are being conducted by both ALC Agricola and South Cone Agriculture. In the U.S., Texas A&M University is conducting trials. Additional collaborators in the program include NASA and Honeywell’s UOP.

In mid-2010, Evogene announced that biobased jet fuel produced using its castor varieties met international standards for alternative aviation fuels. The testing was completed in collaboration with NASA and Honeywell’s UOP. Also in 2010, the company announced that a life cycle analysis of biodiesel  using its castor varieties demonstrated a 90 percent greenhouse gas reduction when compared to petroleum.

“We are excited with the results achieved and look forward to continuing our joint efforts with SLC Agricola, one of the leading soybean and cotton producers in Brazil,” said Assaf Oron, executive vice president of strategy and business development at Evogene “Combining Evogene's world leading capabilities for crop improvement with SLC's agricultural production systems is expected to strongly position our castor varieties as a sustainable and economically viable feedstock solution for the growing biodiesel and biojet markets. And, with Brazil's leadership and long term commitment to biofuel as well as its well established agriculture industry, there is a substantial opportunity for large scale commercial production of castor in Brazil.”



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