Nevada researchers trying to turn roadside weed into biofuel

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Three decades ago, a University of Nevada researcher who secured one of the first Energy Department grants to study the potential to turn plants into biofuels became convinced that a weed — curly top gumweed — was growing along the road to the future.

Now, scientists who've been cultivating the weed on the Reno campus think they're on the verge of producing diesel fuel from the sticky cousin of the sunflower that's found along highways in Nevada's high desert.

Glenn Miller, an environmental sciences professor, is leading the project in the second year of a four-year $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He says gumweed requires only about one-fifth as much water to grow as alfalfa. And it doesn't compete for acreage with animal feed or food crops such as corn and soybeans used to make ethanol in the Midwest.