Texan researchers work to boost viability of switchgrass as biofuel feedstock

September 2, 2020 |

In Texas, a team of scientists from nine universities and research facilities hope to find out how to make switchgrass — a fast-growing perennial native to the U.S. — into a biofuel powerhouse.

It’s part of new project from the U.S. Department of Energy. In nature, switchgrass sequesters carbon underground in its roots, produces cellulose that can be used to make ethanol and typically grows in soils that are unsuitable for food crops — all characteristics that make it a great candidate for biofuel.

The team has developed various switchgrass plants that were transplanted at 10 field sites in multiple states, from coastal South Texas to the Great Plains of South Dakota. Having the same plants growing at these sites allows researchers to consider how the plant’s genes interact with the environment and discover genes involved in specific traits, such as biomass production, with the aid of a method called quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping.

The effort has identified a number of important traits, candidate genes and potentially beneficial root microbes for improving switchgrass — given evidence that plants’ bacterial communities play an important role in their growth.

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Category: Research

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