Less Chewing the Cud, More Greening the Fuel
(Phys.Org/Rothamsted Research) … But now a multinational team of researchers, from the UK, Brazil and the US, has pinpointed a gene involved in the stiffening of cell walls whose suppression increased the release of sugars by up to 60%. Their findings are reported today in New Phytologist.
“The impact is potentially global as every country uses grass crops to feed animals and several biofuel plants around the world use this feedstock,” says Rowan Mitchell, a plant biologist at Rothamsted Research and the team’s co-leader.
Billions of tonnes of biomass from grass crops are produced every year, notes Mitchell, and a key trait is its digestibility, which determines how economic it is to produce biofuels and how nutritious it is for animals. Increased cell wall stiffening, or feruloylation, reduces digestibility.
The findings are undoubtedly a boon in Brazil, where a burgeoning bioenergy industry produces ethanol from the non-food leftovers of other grass crops, such as maize stover and sugarcane residues, and from sugar cane grown as a dedicated energy crop. Increased efficiency of bioethanol production will help it to replace fossil fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Economically and environmentally, our livestock industry will benefit from more efficient foraging and our biofuels industry will benefit from biomass that needs fewer artificial enzymes to break it down during the hydrolysis process,” notes Molinari. READ MORE Abstract (Plant Physiology)
Researchers make grasses more digestible (Ethanol Producer Magazine)