Increase of Oil Content in Vegetative Tissues



Production of alternative fuels such as biodiesel is on the rise around the world and in the U.S. due to a strong and growing desire to reduce dependency on petroleum-derived diesel fuel. The acceptance of biodiesel has been slowed due to its higher cost relative to petroleum-derived diesel. The higher cost of biodiesel is directly related to the cost of feedstock used for biodiesel production, which is often derived from crops also used for food. The displacement of food crops by energy crops causes higher food prices and is fueling a rapidly growing social, environmental, economical and political push to move away from food crops for alternative fuel production.


Description of Technology


Michigan State University’s technology increases the oil storage capacity in plants and could help lower biofuel feedstock costs by enabling higher oil yields per acre of feedstock crops. The invention causes plant oil to accumulate in the leaf and stem structures of the plant. Plant oil normally accumulates in seeds. By altering the function of the trigalactosyldiacylglycerol (TGD) proteins, oil accumulates in the leaf and stem structures, which have greater potential oil storage capacity.  This allows for more oil to be produced per acre.


Key Benefits

  • Enables more efficient feedstock crops: Increases the capacity of feedstock crops to store oil. Hence, more oil can be produced, stored, and harvested per crop acreage.
  • Reduces the cost of biodiesel feedstock: Efficiencies gained from higher oil yielding crops reduce oils costs and translate into lower biodiesel costs.
  • Improves forage quality:  Increases calorie content of forage crops, improves weight gain of animals.
  • Stackable and compatible with other transgenic crop technologies: Technology can be coupled with other transgenic crop technologies that aim to provide more advantageous feedstock.




The technology is useful for improving yields from crops used for feedstock for biodiesel production, especially in non-food crops or non-food parts of crops such as stems. The technology could also be used for feedstock crops used for bioplastics production in plants, which is an emerging trend.  Additionally, the technology is useful for improving forage crops by increasing the calorie content of the forage.


Patent Status


Patent pending




Christoph Benning, Changcheng Xu, Binbin Lu, Jinpeng Gao, Sanjaya Sanjaya


Tech ID




Learn more about the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) at MSU 


Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University