‘Keep off the grass’: the biofuel that could help us achieve net zero

April 4, 2021 |

In the United Kingdom, the Miscanthus genus of grasses, commonly used to add movement and texture to gardens, could quickly become the first choice for biofuel production. A new study shows these grasses can be grown in lower agricultural grade conditions – such as marginal land – due to their remarkable resilience and photosynthetic capacity at low temperatures.

With very little known about its productivity in flooded and moisture-saturated soil conditions, researchers at the Earlham Institute in Norwich wanted to understand the differences in water-stress tolerance among Miscanthus species to guide genomics-assisted crop breeding.

The research team – along with collaborators at TEAGASC, The Agriculture and Food Development Authority in the Republic of Ireland, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences in Wales – analysed various Miscanthus genotypes to identify traits that provided insight into gene adaptation and regulation during water stress. They found specific genes that play key roles in response to water stress across different Miscanthus species, and saw consistencies with functional biological processes that are critical during the survival of drought stress in other organisms.

A significant biomass loss was observed under drought conditions in all of the four Miscanthus species. In flooded conditions, biomass yield was as good as or better than controlled conditions in all species. The low number of differentially expressed genes, and higher biomass yield in flooded conditions, supported the use of Miscanthus in flood-prone marginal land.

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Category: Research

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