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"Sincron": A new Brassica carinata cultivar for biodiesel production

The recent rapid increase of petrol price due to the rising world demand for energy and the rapid depletion of fossil fuels calls for a diversification of energy sources, with particular reference to liquid fuels, gasoline and diesel oil. Diesel fuel in particular is fundamental for human and trade transport. Biodiesel, produced by a simple processing of oil from animal fat and/or oilcrops, could represent an interesting alternative, both pure or mixed with diesel oil. Biodiesel remains interesting even when it becomes clear that it cannot provide a complete substitution for diesel oil use. In tropical areas oil palm, cotton oil, etc. could represent valid sources of vegetable oil, while in temperate areas, rape, soybean and sunflower now represent possible adapted biodiesel producers. However, there is a need to identify other oil crop species, fall sown, not needing irrigation but exhibiting high potential oil productivity. Among the members of the genus Brassica, Brassica carinata, an allopolyploid species coming from natural crosses of B. nigra B. oleracea, originated in Ethiopia, could be of interest for biodiesel production. Being a semi-wild species, but domesticated for indehiscent pod, fall or spring seeded in our conditions, with good growth, Brassica carinata could be a candidate for biodiesel production. We introduced several lines/populations, selected with particular reference to winter survival (particularly in North and Central Italy), high biomass and seed production and good adaptation to marginal soils. The collection and selection program started in the 1990s, with lines obtained from ENEA, Koipesol, India, Germany, Netherlands, etc. After the preliminary screening for agronomic performance, several lines were identified and selected for increased seed and biomass production. The best-performing line, selected from a population coming from North India, was tested in north, central and south Italy, with interesting results. The line, now called "Sincron" for its synchronic ripening, should be seeded in the fall, after good soil preparation to ensure high resistance to winter conditions, in order to profit from winter rains and from long growing cycle. In good conditions, Sincron reaches 1.50-1.70 m height, seed production of 4.0-4.8 t/ha, seed oil content of 33%-35%, with high erucic acid content (47%) and good technological characteristics for biodiesel production. A program involving some 35.000 ha has been proposed in Sicily for production of both biodiesel and electric power from the biomass, while the pres ence of glucosinolates in the cake could be used for control of nematodes in greenhouses and protected cultivations, after the ban of methyl bromide. .