International project aims to develop water-efficient biofuel crops

Sep 25, 2012
International project aims to develop water-efficient biofuel crops
Dr. James Hartwell: “The technology may help us respond to the global food security crisis”.

Scientists from the University of Liverpool are part of an international research project to apply the properties of drought-adapted desert plants, like agave, to poplar trees, a recognised biofuel crop.

Dr James Hartwell, from the Institute of , is part of an £8.6million project, funded by the US Department of Energy that aims to explore the photosynthetic mechanisms of drought-tolerant and introduce these into poplar trees.

Climate change predictions suggest higher temperatures and more frequent severe , including droughts, for later this century. Simultaneously, the challenge of growing enough food to feed the expanding population requires that more productive farmland is used for food production rather than bioenergy. In the face of these combined challenges, there is an urgent and pressing need to improve the ability of biofuel plants to grow productively and sustainably on marginal land that is unsuitable for major food crops.

Unprecedented level of understanding

Dr Hartwell said: "The project will develop an unprecedented level of understanding of a highly water use efficient form of photosynthesis known as crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), which is found in agaves, cacti and succulents. These plants capture carbon dioxide at night when the potential for water loss is lower. With our collaborators, we will identify the optimal 'parts-list' for CAM to function efficiently, and colleagues in the US will use this knowledge to engineer to grow productively and sustainably in low-rainfall regions."

He added: "Longer-term, it may be possible to build on our discoveries to increase the water use efficiency of other bioenergy and . The technology may help us to respond to the global food security crisis by developing crops better adapted to the drier and warmer world predicted by climate change models."

Explore further: Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, a pipet and a polymer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Desert plant may hold key to surviving food shortage

Jun 19, 2008

The plant, Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi, is unique because, unlike normal plants, it captures most of its carbon dioxide at night when the air is cooler and more humid, making it 10 times more water-efficient than major crops such ...

Genomics of wood for biofuels production investigated

Nov 07, 2011

A team of Virginia Tech researchers is working to characterize the genes involved in wood formation in poplar trees with the goal of improving the quality and quantity of wood as a feedstock for biofuels production.

Scientists ID Bacterial Genes that Improve Plant Growth

May 13, 2010

You might think bacteria that "invade" trees are there to cause certain destruction. But like the helpful bacteria that live within our guts, some microbes help plants thrive. To find out what makes these ...

Recommended for you

Cultivation of microalgae via an innovative technology

Feb 27, 2015

Preliminary laboratory scale studies have shown consistent biomass production and weekly a thick microalgal biofilm could be harvested. A new and innovative harvesting device has been developed for ALGADISK able to directly ...

Refined method to convert lignin to nylon precursor

Feb 27, 2015

A new study from the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) demonstrates the conversion of lignin-derived compounds to adipic acid, an important industrial dicarboxylic acid produced for its use as ...

Living in the genetic comfort zone

Feb 26, 2015

The information encoded in the DNA of an organism is not sufficient to determine the expression pattern of genes. This fact has been known even before the discovery of epigenetics, which refers to external ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.