BioPEC researcher looks to add value to Oklahoma land

Feb 24, 2012
by WLJ

Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) Biobased Products and Energy Center (BioPEC) has a mission to identify and enhance feedstocks for producing biobased products and energy, and provide education about biobased products and energy through secondary education, undergraduate and graduate resident instruction.

This mission is directly portrayed through the work of the 22 researchers who make up the center. One of those researchers is Gopal Kakani, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences at OSU, who is conducting research to understand perennial and annual bioenergy crop functions and responses to Oklahoma environments.

“The goal of the research is to demonstrate and establish sustainable bioenergy feedstock production in marginal areas of Oklahoma,” Kakani said. “At the same time, research also provides diverse choices for feedstock production by producers and industry.”

Once feedstock production and management guidelines are established for different regions of Oklahoma, both producers and industry will be able to locate biofuel industry in Oklahoma.

“My goal at the time of joining this position was to enhance farming profitability and rural income in Oklahoma through sustain ability of the farm and environment,” he said. “In my opinion, use of marginal land for bioenergy would provide a great opportunity to enhance the value of the produce and bring industry to rural Oklahoma, thus generating much needed employment and income.”

Along with the native perennial grass switchgrass and annual crop sorghum, the bioenergy crops Kakani evaluates include energy beets, camelina, energy cane and jatropha.

“The program research findings are carried over to the classrooms through my teaching component,” Kakani said. “I offer both inclass and online undergraduate and graduate level courses on bioenergy feedstock production and crop modeling.”

The approximate $1.4 million in funding is provided by several sources, including Oklahoma’s National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research program, the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center, the South Central Sun Grant Initiative, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, industry support and collaboration with Beta- Seed, Inc. and Sustainable Oils.

More information about Kakani and the research done within the center can be found online at http:// bioenergycenter.okstate. edu/. — WLJ