General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy have announced a partnership to develop a new form of the Jatropha plant for use in biofuel production. Jatropha is traditionally considered a weed, but when refined it can produce an oil that can be developed into biodiesel fuel. GM and the D.O.E. are hoping to develop a unique strand of the plant that would be better suited for biofuel harvest.

GM and the D.O.E. are hoping to produce a new variety of the Jatropha plant that will produce high yields in climates found in the U.S., as opposed to its native habitat in Central America, or climates where it thrives such as in India.

According to the Wallstreet Journal, Goldman Sachs suggested Jatropha as a top candidate for biofuel harvesting back in 2007, and it appears that now the D.O.E. and GM have finally taken notice. The plant is actually a tree-like weed, and is quite adaptable at growing in harsh climates and with poor soil in its natural state. The immediate advantage of Jatropha plants is that they can be grown in areas and under conditions that are otherwise unsuitable for other crops, such as corn.

GM said that it hopes to develop new strains of the plant that can better withstand frost, is drought-resistant and more viable in temperate climates found in the U.S. currently, the plant is extremely common in India, where it is beginning to be harvested on plantations.


1. 'Jatropha plant gains steam...' view