, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 778-800
Date: 29 Mar 2012

A Common View of the Opportunities, Challenges, and Research Actions for Pongamia in Australia

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Interest in biofuels is increasing in Australia due to volatile and rising oil prices, the need to reduce GHG emissions, and the recent introduction of a price on carbon. The seeds of Pongamia (Millettia pinnata) contain oils rich in C18:1 fatty acid, making it useful for the manufacture of biodiesel and other liquid fuels. Preliminary assessments of growth and seed yield in Australia have been promising. However, there is a pressing need to synthesise practical experience and existing fragmented research and to use this to underpin a well-founded and co-ordinated research strategy to support industry development, including better management of the risks associated with investment. This comprehensive review identifies opportunities for Pongamia in Australia and provides a snapshot of what is already known and the risks, uncertainties, and challenges based on published research, expert knowledge, and industry experience. We conclude that whilst there are major gaps in fundamental understanding of the limitations to growth of Pongamia in Australia, there is sufficient evidence indicating the potential of Pongamia as a feedstock for production of biofuel to warrant investment into a structured research and development program over the next decade. We identify ten critical research elements and propose a comprehensive research approach that links molecular level genetic research, paddock scale agronomic studies, landscape scale investigations, and new production systems and value chains into a range of aspects of sustainability.