Sep 182012
 

It can also provide dedicated energy crops suitable for establishment on marginal land

Putting the water-use-efficient and turbo-charged photosynthesis from plants such as agave into woody biomass plants such as poplar can hedge against predicted long-term increases in temperatures and reduced precipitation. It can also provide dedicated energy crops suitable for establishment on marginal land as a source of renewable biomass.

A five-year, multi-institutional $14.3 million United States Department of Energy grant to explore the genetic mechanisms of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) and drought tolerance in desert-adapted plants was awarded to a team of researchers including John Cushman, a biochemistry professor at the University of Nevada, Reno; Xiaohan Yang at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); James Hartwell at the University of Liverpool, UK; and Anne Borland at Newcastle University, UK and ORNL.
They aim to apply this knowledge to biofuel crops. The team will develop novel technologies to redesign bioenergy crops to grow on economically marginal agricultural lands and produce yields of biomass that can readily be converted to biofuels. The development of water-use efficient, fast-growing trees such as poplar for such sites will also help reduce competition with food crops for usable farmland. “With climate change predictions for a 7 degree Fahrenheit (3.8 degree C) increase in temperature and a decrease in reliable precipitation patterns by 2080 for much of America’s breadbasket, and with a greater need for sources of biofuels for transportation, these biodesign approaches to enhancing biomass production become very important,” Cushman, director of the project, said.
The long-term goal of the proposed research is to enhance the plant’s water-use efficiency and adaptability to hotter, drier climates. The metabolic mechanisms in species that normally perform photosynthesis during the day (known as C3 photosynthesis) will be altered so the plants can take up carbon dioxide at night, when the potential for water loss is lower. This specialized mechanism of nocturnal photosynthesis is known as CAM. The pores on plant leaf surfaces, called stomata, open and close at certain times of the day to allow water and carbon dioxide to be exchanged. With CAM, the exchange happens mostly at night, when it is cooler and more humid, and then C3 photosynthesis occurs during the day in a more water-wise manner. CAM species can grow and thrive with about 8 to 16 inches of precipitation a year, far less than the 20 to 40 inches per year required for current biofuel feedstocks.Read more . . .

via Phys.Org

 

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