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Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Redesign Sugarcane into Advanced Biofuel Source

September 4, 2013
News article:

AgriLife Today reported the sugarcane breeding work at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center aimed at developing a biofuel feedstock that will help reduce American dependence on petroleum by 30 percent by 2030.

Crossing distantly related plants and using molecular markers to track down genes, the Weslaco-based group seeks to create new generation of bioenergy crops that will eventually replace food crops like corn for the production of ethanol fuel. The research group headed by Prof. Jorge da Silva has created new sugarcane varieties with biomass that is at least nine times more efficient in producing ethanol than corn. By stacking favourable genes from different sources, they have introduced traits into these varieties that will allow them to grow outside the tropics such as cold and drought tolerance and resistance to diseases and insects.

Prof. da Silva expects to produce half a dozen varieties ready for release in about two years. As new plant materials are developed for efficient conversion to biofuels, facilities to process them are in the pilot stage of development.