[30 January / Business Day]

During a 6 year project funded by the Government and Chevron, a Lincoln University research team tested 15 plant types, which identified that canola can be turned into biodiesel capable of being used in any diesel engine. Professor of Ecology, Steve Wratten said the research involved mixing the fungus Trichoderma with canola seeds. Small field trials which used Trichoderma with canola seeds with material such as dried sewage waste has resulted in 30% yield increases. Professor Wratten said results of large field trials are expected this year. Research has also been focusing on improving pollination and the biological control of pests. Canola is seen to have advantages over other crops due to its mild environmental impact, minimal inputs and its subsidiary products such as animal feed and cereals. The researchers are also examining the production of renewable diesel from a type of giant grass, miscanthus. Miscanthus is also considered to have notable advantages such as low moisture content at harvesting, higher biomass and its perennial nature. Additionally, the process of making the biofuel does not require large industrial plants and feedstock. A plant could produce 150 litres per hour of renewable diesel from only 12 tonnes of dry matter a day, and a price of $1.10 per litre would allow for a return on investment. Miscanthus New Zealand managing director, Peter Brown said that he had been approached by US parties who had access to the required technology for renewable diesel production. He expects a couple of farms to be operating in New Zealand within a year.