Biotech Updates

Research Team Converts Sugarcane to Cold Tolerant, Oil-Producing Crop

February 26, 2014

A multi-institutional team led by researchers from the University of Illinois reports that it can increase sugarcane's geographic range, boost its photosynthetic rate by 30 percent and turn it into an oil-producing crop for biodiesel production. Aside from sugarcane, the initiative will also include sorghum into even more productive, oil-generating plants.

The team introduced genes to sugarcane that increased its natural oil production to about 1.5 percent. Using genetic engineering, the research team increased photosynthetic efficiency in sugarcane and sorghum by 30 percent, according to team leader Stephen Long. To boost cold tolerance, researchers are crossing sugarcane with the perennial grass Miscanthus. The new hybrid is more cold tolerant than sugarcane, but further crosses are still needed to restore the other attributes of sugarcane while preserving its cold tolerance.

Long added, "Our goal is to make sugarcane produce more oil, be more productive with more photosynthesis and be more cold tolerant."

For more details about this research, read the news release at