The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative* have jointly selected 11 projects for awards totaling $8.3 million for biobased-fuel research. These awards continue a commitment begun in 2006 to conduct fundamental research in biomass genomics that will establish a scientific foundation to facilitate and accelerate the use of woody plant tissue for bioenergy and biofuel.
Starting in 2007, DOE will provide $5.5 million in funding for seven projects, while USDA will award more than $1.5 million to fund three projects, one of which will receive $1.3 million in funding from both agencies. Initial funding is for up to 3 years.
Project Goal: Map protein-protein interactions relevant to biomass production by focusing on proteins coexpressed in poplar xylem, site of the majority of lignocellulose synthesis and hence biomass accumulation in poplar.
"Developing Association Mapping in Polyploid Perennial Biofuel Grasses"
Project Goal: Undertake an association-mapping study of two important biofuel grasses, switchgrass and reed canarygrass, to identify molecular markers tightly linked to biomass-related trait loci. This will enable marker-assisted selection and greatly accelerate breeding programs for enhanced biomass production.
Project Goal: Identify small RNAs related to stresses such as drought, temperature, and nutrient deprivation and relate them to the emerging genome sequence of Brachypodium distachyon, thus enhancing its value as a functional genomic model for energy crops and temperate grasses.
Project Goal: Create a comprehensive marker set for switchgrass based principally on simple sequence repeats, and initiate development of a linkage map.
Project Goal: Maximize the amount of fermentable sugar in the whole sorghum plant by identifying and isolating genes that control the high stalk juice sugar trait and a decreased stalk lignin trait, with the aim of eventually combining both traits in a single germplasm. (Updated December 2008)
Project Goal: Create a collection of insertional mutants in Brachypodium distachyon. This resource collection can then be used to identify mutations in genes predicted to affect biomass quality and agronomic characteristics of other perennial grass energy crops.
Project Goal: Gain a molecular understanding of phytochrome-mediated responses to competition in Populus and then use that knowledge to maximize carbon capture per unit of land area for increased biomass production.
Project Goal: Examine cell-wall synthesis in rice, a model grass bioenergy species and the source of rice stover residues, using reverse genetic and functional genomic and proteomic approaches.
Project Goal: Develop PCR markers for this species and to construct an initial linkage map for prairie cordgrass, a native perennial high-biomass–yielding grass.
"Resource Development in Switchgrass, an Important Bioenergy Crop for the U.S.A."
Project Goal: Construct a detailed genetic map of switchgrass based on simple sequence repeats, and align it with maps produced in rice, maize, and sorghum. This will allow the exploitation of resources and sequence information generated for these well-studied cereals. The genetic maps also will serve as a framework for locating genes that control bioenergy traits.
Project Goal: Optimize the use of DNA markers to simultaneously breed for high corn grain yield (for nonenergy and energy uses) and high stover quality for ethanol production.