Immature Switchgrass Could Help Cellulosic Ethanol Industry
by Ann Perry (US Department of Agriculture Agriculture Research Service) A gene that keeps switchgrass forever young could have far-reaching implications for the development of the plant as a biofuel crop, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
Inserting a specific gene called “corngrass” from corn into switchgrass essentially keeps the perennial grass in its juvenile form—a plant that doesn’t flower, doesn’t produce seeds, and doesn’t have a dormant growth phase. Because of these changes, the sugars making up the plant starch are more readily available for conversion into cellulosic ethanol.
According to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist Sarah Hake, the starch in these transgenic plants stays inside the stem because it isn’t needed elsewhere for nourishing flower buds and blossoms. As a result, starch levels can increase as much as 250 percent, which increases the sugars that can be fermented into ethanol. READ MORE and MORE (Sustainable Business Oregon) and MORE (Revmondo) and MORE (CleanTechnica)