Biotech Updates

Increasing Sugar Yield and Biomass Production in Arabidopsis Discovered by VIB Scientists

February 28, 2018

Plants are engineered to contain less lignin to ease the industrial processing of plant biomass into energy. Unfortunately, this process reduces yield. Researchers at the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology  discovered a way to overcome this problem. Moreover, the strategy they used does not just restore the biomass yield. It increases the yield beyond that of wild type plants.

Plant biomass serves as a renewable and carbon-neutral raw material for the production of bioenergy and other chemicals. However, the industrial processing of biomass is hindered by lignin. Lignocellulosic biomass is very rich in sugar, which can be used to produce bioethanol. But getting that sugar out of the plant is difficult. Although lignin strengthens the plant cell walls, it also essentially traps the sugars in there.

In their most recent study, Prof. Wout Boerjan of VIB-UGent, PhD student Barbara De Meester and Dr. Ruben Vanholme, looked for a solution to this problem. The team used a dwarfed, mutant Arabidopsis plant containing only half the normal amount of lignin. Dr. Ruben Vanholme said, "The combination of a low lignin amount and increased biomass in our engineered plants led to a four-fold increase in sugar release compared to wild plants. And it's exactly that sugar we need to move from a fossil-based to a bio-based economy."

For more, read the VIB News.