CoverCress' efforts to develop pennycress as a cash crop are getting a $10 million boost from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA is directing the $10 million to Win Phippen, an agriculture professor at Western Illinois University in Macomb. He's been growing pennycress, which most farmers would consider a weed, for 10 years and investigating its use as a source of biofuel.
The grant will allow Phippen, along with professors from four other universities, to further refine the crop and work toward a goal of producing 2 billion gallons of biofuel annually.
CoverCress, a Creve Coeur firm that wants to commercialize pennycress, is working with the professors on plant breeding and oilseed production.
Pennycress can be planted as a winter cover crop on land that's also used to produce traditional crops such as corn and soybeans. A Western Illinois University news release says trial planting will begin this month in Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin, with a harvest expected in May.
Phippen hopes to begin selling pennycress commercially in 2021, the news release says.