To maximize biofuel potential, researchers look for sorghum's 'sweet spot'

Sep 12, 2007
Sorghum IV Arrows
Researchers insert an IV into the sorghum plant as a means of infusing the tracer sucrose, so that they can track the movement and distribution of sugar within the growing plant. Credit: Jay Cockrell, TAES

Picture this - IV (intravenous) lines in a sorghum field. It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. It's one way that scientists at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station are researching crops that may contribute to the biofuel revolution.

In Beaumont, Dr. Lee Tarpley, plant physiologist, and College Station colleague, Dr. Don Vietor, professor of crop physiology, have focused their research on sweet sorghum.

While sweet sorghum and sugarcane are close relatives, the researchers have shown that the two species have different ways of moving and storing sugar. Tracer sucrose is inserted into growing plants, using a system similar to an IV. Once the sucrose is inside the plants, the researchers can track the movement and distribution.

They found that, due to the plant's physiology, sweet sorghum appears to be more efficient in reusing the stored sugar to support growth of other parts of the plant. The mechanisms in sugarcane, however, allow it to accumulate very high levels of sucrose.

"The differences are critical, and need to be understood for breeders to develop new varieties specifically for the biofuel industry," Tarpley said. Sweet sorghum and sugarcane are both well suited for this purpose.

"While sorghum is an annual and can fit well into a crop rotation, sugarcane is a suitable perennial for many areas," Tarpley said. But to maximize the potential of sweet sorghum as a biofuel crop, breeders need to understand the physiology of the plant and not use sugarcane as a model.

"There is a large body of research on sugarcane that was previously thought to apply equally well to sorghum. Instead, we need to fully understand how sorghum moves and stores sugar in order to elevate to the next level in our breeding efforts," Tarpley said.

The study results were published in the June 2007 issue of BMC Plant Biology (www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2229/7/33).

Source: Texas A&M University

Explore further: Experts 'grasping at straws' to save near-extinct rhino

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

People finding their 'waze' to once-hidden streets

4 hours ago

When the people whose houses hug the narrow warren of streets paralleling the busiest urban freeway in America began to see bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling by their homes a year or so ago, they were baffled.

Identity theft victims face months of hassle

4 hours ago

As soon as Mark Kim found out his personal information was compromised in a data breach at Target last year, the 36-year-old tech worker signed up for the retailer's free credit monitoring offer so he would ...

Observers slam 'lackluster' Lima climate deal

4 hours ago

A carbon-curbing deal struck in Lima on Sunday was a watered-down compromise where national intransigence threatened the goal of a pact to save Earth's climate system, green groups said.

Your info has been hacked. Now what do you do?

4 hours ago

Criminals stole personal information from tens of millions of Americans in data breaches this past year. Of those affected, one in three may become victims of identity theft, according to research firm Javelin. ...

New Bond script stolen in Sony hack

4 hours ago

An "early version" of the screenplay for the new James Bond film was the latest victim of a massive hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, its producers said in a statement on their website Sunday.

Ag-tech could change how the world eats

10 hours ago

Investors and entrepreneurs behind some of the world's newest industries have started to put their money and tech talents into farming - the world's oldest industry - with an audacious agenda: to make sure there is enough ...

Recommended for you

'Hairclip' protein mechanism explained

5 hours ago

Research led by the Teichmann group on the Wellcome Genome Campus has identified a fundamental mechanism for controlling protein function. Published in the journal Science, the discovery has wide-ranging implications for bi ...

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.