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Evogene to Quadruple Brazil Castor Yield to Cut Biodiesel Costs

Evogene Ltd., the Israeli biotechnology company, is seeking to quadruple the yield of castor beans it grows in Brazil to cut the cost of producing biodiesel.

The company expects to produce 4 metric tons of castor a hectare annually by 2013, said Liat Cinamon, director of investor relations.

The global average is about 1 ton, she said today in a telephone interview from Israel, citing production data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Evogene, based in Rehovot, Israel, said yesterday it’s expanding a field trial it began last year with local agribusiness SLC Agricola SA to breed castor plants in northeast Brazil that bear more seeds and grow more densely.

“This will significantly cut the cost of biodiesel feedstock,” which accounts for 80 percent of production costs, she said.

Castor oil, which can also be used in paints, lubricants and chemicals industries, sells for about $2,000 a ton, compared to $1,500 for soybean oil, Cinamon said.

“When Evogene meets its target it will be competitive” with other biodiesel raw materials such as soybean oil, which is the staple feedstock for most Brazilian refineries, she said.

About 79 percent of biodiesel feedstock was soybean oil in September and none was made from castor oil, according to data posted online by fuel regulator Agencia Nacional do Petroleo, Gas Natural e Biocombustiveis.

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