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News Link • Energy

New uses for old tools could boost biodiesel output

• http://www.bio-medicine.org, Ann Perry

For more than 30 years, near infrared (NIR) reflectance spectroscopy has been used as a rapid and nondestructive method for measuring protein, moisture, and oil levels in whole grains. Now Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research leader Dan Long is studying how to use remote sensing tools to quickly assess seed oil quality and quantity before and after harvest.

ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of developing new sources of bioenergy.

Long, who works at the ARS Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center in Pendleton, Ore., used a special NIR sensor to assess seed oil content in 226 canola samples from Montana, Washington and Oregon. Seed oil concentration is used to estimate extraction efficiency, which is the percentage of oil recovered in relation to the amount of oil in seed.

Using this technique, Long was able to determine that oil concentrations in the samples ranged from 32 percent to 46 percent, and that the NIR sensor estimated seed oil content with an average error of 0.73 percent. A bout of abnormal weather affected results from one group of seeds in this study.

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