Jatropha curcas is a non-edible shrub that is native to Central America. Its seeds contain high amounts of oil that can be used for a variety of bio-based materials including feedstock substitutes for the diesel, petrochemical and jet fuel industries. It can be effectively grown on marginal lands that are considered undesirable for food crops, making it a viable option as a new biofuel. A Jatropha plantation also creates a positive ecological impact, creating a revitalized ecosystem and soil regeneration.
Life Technologies Corporation a provider of innovative life science solutions and SG Biofuels, Inc. , a bioenergy crop company, announced they have completed sequencing the Jatropha curcas genome to 100x coverage, using the SOLiD™ 4.0 System by Life Technologies. The sequence significantly accelerates the identification of key traits for the oilseed-producing crop and advances its development as a high yielding, low-cost source for next generation biofuel.
Working in strategic alliance with Life Technologies, SG Biofuels will use the sequence to generate a high quality Jatropha curcas reference genome. The genome will be compared to sequences generated from SG Biofuels’ germplasm library of more than 6,000 unique Jatropha curcas genotypes – the largest and most diverse collection of Jatropha curcas germplasm in the world – to identify molecular markers and trait genes to accelerate development of elite cultivars with vastly superior yields and profitability. This work will also advance the introduction of transgenic plants with further improved traits.
“Working with SG Biofuels to sequence the Jatropha curcas genome is an important part of our broader synthetic biology strategy to provide technologies for the development of next generation renewable energy,” said Wendy Jozsi, Director of Synthetic Biology at Life Technologies. “There is significant opportunity to use advanced molecular techniques in the optimization of plant-based biofuels, especially Jatropha , for increased yields and a faster development cycle, ultimately leading to new sources of energy.”
In addition to extensive phenotypic diversity, preliminary molecular marker studies illustrate that SG Biofuels Jatropha curcas germplasm collection exhibits approximately 10 times the genetic diversity observed in a collection of Jatropha from India, Africa, and Asia (Basha et al 2009).
“The value of a Jatropha reference genome is enhanced significantly by having a diverse collection of plant material for comparison,” said Kirk Haney, President and Chief Executive Officer of SG Biofuels. “The sequence adds a powerful new tool to our development platform, allowing us to rapidly unlock the true potential of Jatropha as the most profitable and sustainable biofuel feedstock.”
SG Biofuels’ integrated breeding and biotechnology approach forms the foundation for its JMax Jatropha Optimization Platform, providing research agencies, growers and plantation developers with access to the company’s germplasm library, the reference genome, molecular markers and advanced biotech and synthetic biology tools to optimize elite Jatropha cultivars for unique growing conditions around the world.