Crop genetic engineering company Evogene, a world leader in plant genetics and breeding, has signed an agreement with Texas AgriLife Research of Texas A&M University to conduct field trials in southern Texas of castor bean varieties developed by Evogene for biofuels.

The agreement follows a similar agreement with Ireland’s South Cone Agriculture (SCA) for trials in northeast Brazil of castor bean varieties for use in Brazil’s biofuel industry. The US and Brazil are Evogene’s primary target markets for commercial growing of improved castor bean varieties for biofuels.

Castor plants, which are not a food crop, can be grown in hot climates and poor soils. Castor-based biodiesel is expected to be a substantially cheaper alternative to biodiesel developed from other crops.

Under the agreements with Texas A&M and SCA, Evogene will test its improved castor bean varieties using its partners’ infrastructures in the target areas in order to test the crop production in marginal (non-agricultural) soils in these areas, and for the further development of the varieties so that they may be adapted to the local climate conditions in southern Texas and northeast Brazil.

Major shareholders in Evogene include Monsanto Company with an 11.1 percent holding, Coronis BD Partners and Leon Recanati, with 5.3% each.