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Crop Biotech Update

Decreased Lignin Production in Switchgrass Boosts Biofuel Yield

February 18, 2011

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have developed a transgenic switchgrass that can produce about one-third more ethanol by fermentation than the conventional switchgrass. This enhanced plant feedstock will be able to generate more biofuel per acre, which will benefit not just the transportation sector, but also the growers and farming community.

One of the teams working on the project led by Zeng Yu Wang, decided to "downregulate" a gene involved in lignin production. "The presence of lignin in plant cell walls interferes with the fermentation to produce biofuels," said Wang. "The transgenic lines require lower temperature preprocessing and only one-quarter to one-third the level of enzymes for equivalent ethanol fermentation compared to the unmodified switchgrass. This significantly lowers the cost of biofuels and biochemicals from this switchgrass."

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