WIU gets $10 million grant to investigate potential of pennycress in the fuel industry

MACOMB, Illinois -- Western Illinois University has been awarded $10 million as they investigate an alternative cover crop called pennycress.

During the announcement on Tuesday, September 17, Professor of Agriculture, Win Phippen said he will be leading a team of researchers as they investigated the crop's potential.

Dr. Phippen said he and his team would focus on how the crop can be used in the bio-fuel industry, with a specific emphasis on aviation fuel uses.  They will be working with researchers from Illinois State University, the Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and the University of Minnesota.

Students working on this project will focus on plant breeding, ecosystem services, supply chain management, and education opportunities.

Pennycress is planted immediately after corn is harvested and is harvested just before soybeans are planted.  Dr. Phippen said integrating this crop into the rotation extends the growing season and helps curb the fight between food versus fuel.

The overall goal is to make 50 billion gallons of biofuel in 25 years, said Dr. Phippen.  On a smaller scale, WIU hopes to commercialize the use of pennycress within five years.

The grant is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  WIU was one of eight schools to receive this $10 million grant.

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