Our use of the Pongamia pinnata tree as a source of biofuel is not new, in India people have been using the Pongamia seeds for hundreds of years to cook or stay warm. Apart from all the CO2 our tree sequesters, there are lots of other reasons why we use this type of tree.
Pongamia is so advantageous because it has a very high yield. Three times higher than canola for instance. It only loses out to palm, but palm is linked to deforestation, habitat degradation and climate change. Because Pongamia is a tree it can grow a lot of seeds and is easy to harvest. Furthermore, the Pongamia tree is a legume, which means it doesn’t need fertilizer, which is one of the major greenhouse gases.
Our trees don’t cut into food production, a common problem for biofuel crops like soybean and canola. Our trees are planted on land where food crops cannot grow, and those lands can be simultaneously used for cattle. Our trees even enrich the soil, which means that more grass will grow, and more livestock can be held per hectare.
A resilient tree
According to developmental geneticist Professor Peter Gresshoff of the University of Queensland in Australia Pongamia all this makes Pongamia so appropriate. “Pongamia can grow at salinity levels four to five times higher than normal plants. Pongamia does not only have an inherent salinity tolerance but also a drought tolerance. Trees that have passed the seedling stage, so older than two years, can survive three to four months without any water. We have seen other trees suffering during droughts but Pongamia survived. This makes Pongamia so appropriate, it can grow on marginal land, of which we have plenty in the world, and still maintain a high yield.” The seeds of the tree are crushed to extract the oil and the remains are used as protein for cattle. So, nothing goes to waste. All these different reasons make that Quadriz has chosen the Pongamia tree.