Submitted to: Journal of Biotechnology
Publication Type: Abstract only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/15/2008
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Plant biomass (generally inedible part of plant matter) is the most common form of renewable energy resources, which can be converted by microbes to cellulose-based ethanol to meet the growing demand for energy. However, majority of crops grown today for food, feed, and fiber was not bred for biofuels. Thus, research effort is needed to develop or design novel biomass crops for biofuel production. Bioenergy crops can be bred for higher yield, profitable production on marginal lands, more drought- and pest-tolerant and easier conversion to ethanol. It is believed that the recent biotechnology breakthroughs will enable the doubling or more of the current yield of biomass and may lead to the breeding of innovative energy crops with characteristics that ensure sustainable production of biomass and efficient conversion to ethanol. Several high-yield grass species, including maize and sorghum, are currently recognized as the models for biofuel research and development. Fundamental knowledge learned from these models can rapidly be applied to other fuelstock candidates such as Miscanthus and switchgrass for their genetic improvement. Rice and sorghum genome sequencing have already been completed. The resulted genetic blueprints provided by DNA sequences will allow the identification of genes for biomass production and of factors controlling the quality of biomass. In addition, genomic approaches will result in mapping chromosomal regions associated with the function for plant performance and bioenergy production and identifying genetic markers enabling more efficient plant breeding or genetic manipulation. Furthermore, integrated approaches involving genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics are also being used to improve our knowledge and ability to manipulate both the ratio of cellulose and lignin within the biomass and lignocellulose-degrading enzymes in microbes for more efficient bioconversion. No doubt, the power of genomic and biotechnological tools will play an important role in achieving a competitive biofuel industry.