According to a recent study from the Ohio State University, pennycress, or “stinkweed” may be the solution for an eco-friendlier jet fuel. The report states that pennycress is a low maintenance crop that has fewer environmental demands, since it requires less fertilizer and pesticides than other crops used for biofuel.
Pennycress, commonly known as stinkweed, is a common weed plant, part of the cabbage family. Characterized by the unpleasant scent that earned the plant its popular nickname, it can also be identified by its long stalks and tiny white flowers. The weed often appears in several places during the summer months.
The study suggests that the weed may be a useful crop when it comes to more environmentally-friendly biofuels compared to alternatives. Stinkweed doesn’t require the same level of soil tilling, putting less strain on farmers and the environment. The valuation also involved studying the impact of growing, transporting, and converting the weed into jet fuel.
But when it comes to a crop’s potential as a green source for jet fuel, there are many factors to be considered, including the impact of burning the byproducts, the water needed to grow the plant, and the amount of energy required to turn the plant into a different type of energy. Computer models were used to calculate this burden.
When compared to sunflower and canola, the study found that pennycress needed around half the energy to produce, putting it in the same range as another alternative called camelina. The fact that pennycress, or stinkweed, can be grown between the seasons for other important crops like corn and soybean, is one the benefits, giving farmers more use of their land.
Ajay Shah, the study’s senior author explained “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from air travel will mean not just incremental changes, but a fundamental change in how we have been producing fuel and where that fuel comes from. And what we found is that pennycress might make a very good alternative fuel, especially when you consider the environmental costs of producing it.”