The research modules are located on different levels (laboratory and field) and performed in different countries within the respective socio-economic frame. The interactions with stakeholders in different phases of the research process and within different socio-economic frames provide a multitude of experiences that can be harnessed to implement the project successfully. The project tasks are organised in three Work Packages (WP’s) focusing on:

1. Optimization of CGP production in existing CGP-producing tobacco varieties, efficient CGP isolation from tobacco and development of CGP application

In WP1, CGP-production in modified Virgin and Burley tobacco will be optimized on the field, focusing on leaves and seeds as source. For optimal extraction of CGP, a biorefinery concept will be developed based on the Grassa technology developed for extraction of proteins and other nutrients. The isolated CGP can be used either as ingredient/N-source for the feed industry, as a biopolymer as such, as a basis for novel biopolymers after chemical conversion to diaminobutane, and/or for production of polyaspartate after mild hydrolysis (to polyaspartate and arginine). These novel biopolymers will be tested on their own, in blends/mixtures or in combination with other biopolymers such as starch, cellulose and lignin, some of which are also components of the tobacco plant.

2. Introduction of CGP-production in the SL632 tobacco bred for high oil content, implementation of resulting CGP-tobacco lead events in tobacco-growing sites in Argentina and development of CGP, oil and protein isolation protocols for a pilot plant

In this WP we introduce the CGP production in the SL632 tobacco. Since in SL632 both seeds and leaves are nicotine free, leaves are suitable for CGP production as well, but their biomass is slightly lower. Hence, we want to evaluate which strategy is optimal for CGP production in the field. This variety has been developed for its ability to grow under marginal conditions and for high oil- and no nicotine content. The tobacco oil is a potential, local, source for biofuel. By combining the production of biodiesel, protein, fiber and CGP, the economics for this process should become more favourable.

3. Socio-economical analysis on social and economic impacts of the novel CGP-producing tobacco cultivars.

The economics and social impacts of CGP-production based on the different tobacco varieties will be assessed in WP 3. The competitiveness of the plant production system to microorganisms will be analysed, and the socio-economic, partial equilibrium, model will be developed to predict the effect of CGP-production, farming, processing, retailing, etc. in Argentina and in the partner countries. A Technical Economic Evaluation and Life Cycle Analysis will be conducted for the process of CGP-production by tobacco.  As the acceptance of technological innovations related to the Bio-economy is challenging, a stakeholder analysis and an ongoing communication are core elements of the project’s socio-economic strategy. We will perform an accompanying stakeholder dialogue to generate knowledge in cooperation with stakeholders, to feed back that knowledge to all parties involved, and to further communication.

The processes and outcomes of the project will be aligned with socio-economic issues of the countries involved, thereby providing knowledge for implementation. With this approach, the consortium expects to develop strong alternatives for the tobacco industry, in general, and especially to geographical areas such as (Northern) Argentina that rely strongly on the growth of this crop. We also strive for establishing an active, international network of experts with multidisciplinary key competences in

  • growing and exploitation of tobacco
  • use of plants as cell factories for novel components
  • production of the unique N-storage compound CGP,
  • design and development of novel biomaterials
  • legislation, acceptation and implementation of genetically modified crops
  • research on finding sustainable bio-based alternatives for current fossil-based products
  • and in studying socio-economic impact of novel, bio-based, products and processes.

The project will also enhance the collaboration between various European research groups and R&D centers and industries within Argentina.