MACOMB, Ill. (NEWS3) — The Western Illinois University School of Agriculture has been selected as one of the eight schools in the nation to receive a $10 million grant to research a crop.
According to WIU professor Dr. Win Phippen, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant will be used to investigate the Pennycress weed.
One of Phippins goals is to use Pennycress as a new cash cover crop in Illinois during the winter.
A cover crop is planted between planting seasons, to prevent damage to fields due to wind and water erosion.
Phippen, has been with the School of Agriculture and the director of the School’s Alternative Crops Program since 2000. He said that he has been growing Pennycress, and investigating its use as a cover crop as well as a bio-fuel alternative, for 10 years.
“Pennycress is unique among cover crops as it can generate income, which incentivizes farmer participation. Integration of Pennycress into existing corn-soybean rotations extends the growing season on established cropland and avoids food crop displacement, all while yielding up to two billion gallons of oil annually,” explained Phippin.
Phippen’s goal is to commercialize the crop within the next five years, and to produce 50 billion dollars of bio-fuel in the next 25 years.
Trial planting of the Pennycress crop will begin this month at WIU with the first harvest anticipated in May 2020.
Other universities receiving the grant are Illinois State University, Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the University of Minnesota. in Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota, with the first harvest anticipated in May 2020.