Crop Biotech Update

White Rot Fungus Boosts Ethanol Production from Corn Stalks, Cobs and Leaves

July 13, 2012

Scientists from Ohio State University and National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported new evidence showing the presence of white rot fungus in waste corn stalks, cobs, and leaves can lead to increased production of ethanol.

Yebo Li and his colleagues explain that corn ethanol supplies face a crunch because corn is needed for animal feed and food. Their team noted that the need for new ethanol sources has shifted to using stover, an abundant agricultural residue in the U.S., estimated at 170-256 million tons per year. The challenge is to find a way to breakdown tough cellulose material in cobs, stalks and leaves, so that sugars inside can be fermented to ethanol.

Previous studies showed that the microbe Ceriporiopsis subvermispora, or white rot fungus, showed promise for breaking down tough plant materials prior to enzyme treatment to release the sugars. To advance this knowledge, Li and his team evaluated how well the fungus broke down the different parts of corn stover and improved the sugar yield. After treating stover with the white rot fungus for one month, the team found that they can extract up to 30 percent more sugar from the leaves and 50 percent more from the stalks and cobs.

The results of the study, including the abstract and full paper can be read at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ie300487z.