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Biofuels from Engineered Tobacco Plants?, posted in Biofuels, Future Energy, Industry.


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Biofuels from Engineered Tobacco Plants?

News » Energy | Biofuels | Environment | Hydrogen | Solar | Transportation | Wind
January 8th, 2010 - View Comments

Tobacco Plants A biofuel is tricky to define because the usual fossil fuel we use, is in a way biofuel too. But we can safely say that most of the biofuels don’t add up their quota of carbon dioxide to the environment. The biofuels are therefore considered to be “CO2 neutral.” Researchers from the Biotechnology Foundation Laboratories at Thomas Jefferson University have developed a new method to increase the quantity of oil in tobacco leaves. So that oil in tobacco leaves can be utilized as biofuels in future. Their paper was published in Plant Biotechnology Journal which is an online journal.

Vyacheslav Andrianov is a Ph.D. and assistant professor of Cancer Biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. According to him tobacco can produce biofuel more efficiently than other agricultural crops. But there is a hitch. When we try to extract oil, most of it is available in tobacco seeds. Statistics say that tobacco seeds are composed of about 40 percent oil per dry weight. Another snag is tobacco plants don’t produce seeds in copious amounts. It is about 600 kg of seeds per acre. Dr. Andrianov and his colleagues aim to find ways so that the tobacco leaves produce more oil.

A usual tobacco plant leave has 1.7 percent to 4 percent of oil per dry weight. The researchers modified two genes of the plant. They are the diacyglycerol acytransferase (DGAT) gene or the LEAFY COTYLEDON 2 (LEC2) gene. The plants were engineered to over express one of the two genes. The alteration of DGAT gene resulted in about 5.8 percent of oil per dry weight in the leaves. It is around twice the amount of oil produced by and large. When the researcher went for the LEC2 gene modification it yielded around 6.8 percent of oil per dry weight.

According to Dr. Andrianov, “Tobacco is very attractive as a biofuel because the idea is to use plants that aren’t used in food production. We have found ways to genetically engineer the plants so that their leaves express more oil. In some instances, the modified plants produced 20-fold more oil in the leaves.”

Dr. Andrianov opines, “Based on these data, tobacco represents an attractive and promising ‘energy plant’ platform, and could also serve as a model for the utilization of other high-biomass plants for biofuel production.”

What do you think?

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  • sara

    How can it be CO2 neutral? Are machines used to plant and harvest crop? How about delivery of seeds to be grown?

  • Francisco A Roque

    Thar’s ok to make biofuels from, not from corn, a good food source, they should prohibit them from using food products again.

  • sheckyvegas

    “But there is a hitch. When we try to extract oil, most of it is available in tobacco seeds.” — Oh, I think I see another hitch. The potential of throwing tons of tobacco smoke back into the atmosphere! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! We all gonna die…

  • http://www.runningonemptybook.com Phillip Greene

    I would be curious as to how much water is used in growing and processing the seeds too.

  • Stasulos

    Biofuels are a dead end unless produced as waste treatment (i.e. biodiesel from waste cooking oil) due to their low energy production density. Even the oil palm (one of the most oiliest plants per acre) still produce no more than 2 watts per sq.m. This means land overusage, water overusage and in the end – worse food supply safety. Even when produced from wild plants on non-arable land, biofuels are hundreds of times less efficient compared to wind and solar. The main issue is that you cannot put electrons in your F250 fuel tank.

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