Sugarcane research aims to harvest green energy

Jul 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists based at UQ are working towards one of sustainable energy’s holy grails - harvesting the untapped potential of sugar cane.

Aided by new technologies and an international research network, the Australian team aim to have the first sugarcane genome sequence ready by the middle of next year.

The Australian arm of the research project, “Understanding the Sugarcane Genome”, is expected to bolster research into sought-after and provide future business opportunities for the local sugarcane industry.

Led by Southern Cross University (SCU) and funded by the UQ-based Cooperative Research Centre for Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology (CRC SIIB), the research also involves contributions from the CSIRO.

Head of the research project Professor Robert Henry said sugarcane is recognised as one of the best producers of carbon when compared to other commonly grown agricultural crops, such as corn and wheat.

“Energy canes have been touted, both here and internationally, as one of the most efficient future options for producing plant-based fuels, plastics and many sought-after bio-products,” Professor Henry said.

“It is becoming well known that sugarcane is a perfect candidate for energy production and a potential replacement to petroleum in a wide range of manufacturing processes.

“To date, the plant’s complex , and the investment required to generate its sequences, have hindered research efforts of this nature.”

It is expected that Professor Henry and his team will have completed a “draft” of the sugarcane sequence by mid 2010.

“Thanks to CRC SIIB support, the Australian sugarcane industry will have a fantastic platform from which to conduct all future research into enhanced cane that produce more sucrose and a vast array of environmentally friendly fuel and bio-based products,” he said.

“This will be an outstanding outcome, and the resulting database will include sought after, significant genetic information.”

The sugarcane analysis at SCU is utilising new instruments and facilities funded as national research infrastructure by the Federal Government.

The analysis lets researchers see precisely where in the sugarcane DNA structure specific cane traits can be found, so these traits can be targeted for specific research down the track.

To encourage international collaboration in the area, a CRC SIIB-funded workshop will take place in Cairns next month including representatives from Brazil, France and South Africa.

“By understanding the biological makeup of a plant, we can be more exact in our research and also identify many more sustainable applications for sugarcane,” Professor Henry said.

Provided by University of Queensland (news : web)

Explore further: Me, my neuroprocessor, and I: Preparing for a hybrid world

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fuel ethanol cannot alleviate US dependence on petroleum

Jul 01, 2005

A new study of the carbon dioxide emissions, cropland area requirements, and other environmental consequences of growing corn and sugarcane to produce fuel ethanol indicates that the "direct and indirect environmental impacts ...

New source for biofuels discovered

Apr 23, 2008

A newly created microbe produces cellulose that can be turned into ethanol and other biofuels, report scientists from The University of Texas at Austin who say the microbe could provide a significant portion ...

If corn is biofuels king, tropical maize may be emperor

Oct 16, 2007

When University of Illinois crop scientist Fred Below began growing tropical maize, the form of corn grown in the tropics, he was looking for novel genes for the utilization of nitrogen fertilizer and was hoping to discover ...

Beans means oil crisis relief

Apr 24, 2006

Forget ethanol fuel blends from sugar, tomorrow's cars could be full of beans, according to University of Queensland legume biotechnology expert Professor Peter Gresshoff.

Recommended for you

'Most famous wheat gene' found

Sep 15, 2014

Washington State University researchers have found "the most famous wheat gene," a reproductive traffic cop of sorts that can be used to transfer valuable genes from other plants to wheat.

Mosses survive climate catastrophes

Sep 15, 2014

Mosses have existed on Earth for more than 400 million years. During this period they survived many climate catastrophes that wiped out more robust organisms such as, for example, dinosaurs. Recently, British ...

Final pieces to the circadian clock puzzle found

Sep 14, 2014

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have discovered how two genes – Period and Cryptochrome – keep the circadian clocks in all human cells in time and in proper rhythm with the 24-hour day, as well ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Birger
not rated yet Jul 10, 2009
To increase the ethanol yield from sugarcane even further, why not insert the genes for cellulase (the enzymes that break cellulose into smaller sugars, suitable for fermentation to alcohol)?
If they are designed to be activated by a chemical "trigger" applied shortly before harvest, the plants will produce cellulase that will allow a biorefinery to process the harvested plants so even more sugar is produced and less cellolose waste remains.