The Best Crops for Biofuel Production

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Different crops are used for biofuel, including wheat, sunflower, soybean, and sugarcane. Biofuel production relies on energy crops grown in Europe, the U.S. and other places around the world. Alternative fuels are used to power vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Corn is one of the best crops for the production of alternative fuels and ethanol, in particular. Ethanol releases less sulfur, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide compared to other fuels. Corn kernels are used for production because they are cheaper.


Brazil is the country that has invested heavily in biofuel production. Sugarcane is planted and processed to produce ethanol. The result is a low-carbon, inexpensive, and clean fuel. Additional benefits include reduced petroleum usage and dependence on fossil fuels, improved engine performance, and less greenhouse gas emissions. Sugarcane ethanol reduces emissions and air pollution. What is more, this is a way to diversify fuel sources and energy supplies. The harvesting cycle of this crop is one of the main advantages. Replanting is required after several harvests, and this reduces the cost of production.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is another source for biofuel production. Energy efficiency makes it one of the best crops. The fact that less harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere makes palm oil a green crop. Tree plantations are mostly found in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, creating jobs for rural populations. Other producers include Kenya, Cameroon, Colombia, Thailand, and Nigeria.

Other Sources

Different crops are used for biofuel production while others are of interest and subject to scientific research. The list includes plants and materials such as:

  • Algae
  • Rapeseed
  • Soya
  • Jatropha
  • Camelina
  • Cellulose
  • Paper waste
  • Methane
  • Castor bean
  • Cardoon
  • Ethiopian mustard
  • Dwarf glasswort
  • Reed canary grass
  • Willow and poplar
  • Giant reedgrass
  • Sweet sorghum
  • Switchgrass
  • Ethiopian mustard is used for biofuel production in Canada. This is a fairly new undertaking. The crop is planted in regions with a semi-arid climate and dry, hot areas. There are many benefits, and one is that the plant is draught and heat tolerant and resistant to blackleg. What is more, this is a non-food crop unlike corn and soy. About 50 percent of the biofuel offered in the U.S. and North America, in general, comes from soy crops. The rest comes from seeds, animal fat, and recycled cooking oil. Ethiopian mustard is marketed as a plant with a high oil profile. Jatropha is another candidate and a crop with a high oil content. It is draught tolerant and pest resistant. While some experts argue that non-food crops such as jatropha may be the solution to the fuel vs. food problem, this plant also requires water and nutrients. Reed canary grass or Phalaris arundinacea is believed to be another candidate for ethanol production. It can be planted on contaminated and poor soils. Alga is another source of biofuel production. The main benefit is that it doesn’t take huge areas to plant it. According to researchers, production is cost-efficient and takes less time. Algae can be used to produce diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel. Fertilizers, natural gas, and electricity can be produced from the byproducts. Alga can be used as a source of affordable and eco-friendly fuel. Other crops and candidates include:

  • Oats
  • Maize
  • Coconut
  • Chinese tallow
  • Jojoba
  • Tung tree
  • Safflower
  • Sesame
  • Coriander
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp
  • Kenaf
  • Ethanol is mainly produced from plants that contain cellulose, sugar, and starch. Sugars are fermented with yeast and derived from grain feed stock. Other crops that are associated with the production of alternative fuels include euphorbia, flax, calendula, and Copaifera langsdorffii.

    The problem with biofuels is that farmers in the developing countries burn hundreds and thousands of acres of forest and rainforest to grow crops. This puts many rare and threatened animals and plants at risk of extinction. On the positive side, biofuels are less toxic and cleaner and contribute to the efforts to prevent global warming. Other benefits include lower reactivity and reduced sulfate, particulate, and volatile organic compound emissions.

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