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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Hilo, Hawaii » Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center » Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research » Research » Research Project #438677

Research Project: Demonstrating Bioeconomy Technologies for the Tropics

Location: Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research

Project Number: 2040-43000-018-010-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2020
End Date: Aug 31, 2025

Bioeconomy technologies encompass a broad range of opportunities to recycle carbon to make fuels, chemicals and biocomposite materials. The overall goal of this project is to demonstrate and accelerate the adoption of bioeconomy technologies for Hawaii and the tropics, regions of great biomass-production. Specific objectives are to: 1) Evaluate varieties and agronomic practices to inexpensively grow Type 1 sugarcane as bioeconomy feedstock on marginal/low-fertility soils; 2) Establish Type 1 sugarcane genetic transformation and genome editing capabilities; 3) Obtain genes for lignin modification to be engineered into Type 1 energy cane varieties; 4) Complete baseline demonstration of saltwater-based fermentation of marine-grown macroalgae to establish general feasibility of zero-freshwater, marine feedstock and seawater fermentation systems.

Field trials for Type 1 energy canes will be conducted at the University of Hawaii Hilo Experimental Farm to demonstrate yields, biomass composition, and root soil carbon sequestration for two varieties. These are low-lignin sugarcane varieties that can thrive on poor-fertility soils with minimal inputs, with multiple ratooning to promote deep root formation and carbon sequestration. In addition, existing cane transformation, genome editing, and lignin modification technologies will be explored to incorporate demonstrated lignin modification genes in sugarcane, with the objective to evaluate lignin-modified sugar/energy cane varieties for feasibility as bioeconomy feedstock in Hawaii and the tropics. For evaluation of marine-based bio feedstocks, macroalgae will be sourced locally, heat treated, and fermented with saltwater-compatible microbes (Rhodosporidium toruloides) in plastic tanks. The production of algal biomass and lipids will be determined to establish the general feasibility of zero-freshwater marine feedstock and seawater fermentation systems to make bioproducts for conversion to biofuel or aquaculture feeds. New technologies will be transferred to scientists and stakeholders for potential use in bioeconomy applications, including biofuel and bioplastics.