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 seven projects for awards totaling $7.8 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.
In 2016, DOE will provide nearly $5.8 million in funding over 3 years, while USDA will award $2 million over 3 years.
Goal: To develop pennycress (Thlaspi arvense), a member of the Brassicaceae, as a bioenergy crop, taking advantage of its ability to produce seed oil that is ideally suited as a renewable source of biodiesel and aviation fuel. In this project, pennycress' natural variation will be investigated to identify candidate genes and biomarkers associated with oil accumulation and fatty acid composition as well as metabolic engineering targets for improving oil content and composition. A public seed collection of pennycress mutants and transgenic lines will be developed as a community resource for accelerating research.
Goal:To develop oilseed Brassica cultivars with higher seed and oil yield, high oil quality, blackleg resistance, and low input costs. Novel genes for resistance to blackleg disease will be identified, and molecular marker assisted selection tools will be developed to accelerate Brassica breeding. Putative pattern recognition receptor (PRR) resistance genes so identified will be introgressed into adapted cultivar backgrounds to develop superior non-food grade oilseed cultivars with durable resistance, suitable for the Pacific Northwest and other U.S. regions.
Goal: Camelina sativa has received considerable attention as a potential nonfood biofuels crop, but significant challenges remain to develop stable, high-yielding, geographically adapted germplasm suitable for biofuels production. Advanced high-throughput phenotyping and genomics-based approaches will be used to discover useful gene/alleles controlling seed yield and oil content and quality in Camelina under water-limited conditions, and will identify high-yielding cultivars suitable for production in different geographical regions.
Goal: To provide the genetic, molecular, physiological, and transcriptomic bases for imparting durable rust and viral disease resistance to switchgrass. This project leverages the differential performance of lowland ('Kanlow', resistant) and upland ('Summer', susceptible) cultivars under fungal rust (Puccinia emaculata, Uromyces graminicola) and viral (Panicum mosaic virus) disease pressures. Genomic selection will be applied across three generations of a 'Summer' x 'Kanlow' breeding population to develop prediction models for yield and disease traits, which will facilitate pyramiding key genes into released cultivars for durable resistance and ultimately improve the bioenergy potential of switchgrass through breeding and selection.
Goal: To discover host molecular pathways that enhance endophytic growth of stalk fungi and inhibit the developmental switch to pathogenic growth that frequently occurs under periods of prolonged abiotic stress in sorghum. Biomolecular markers for resistance will be identified that will significantly enhance efforts to develop superior bioenergy sorghum with resistance to increasing disease and environmental stresses.
Goal: To increase Camelina seed size and oil content for improved seedling establishment and oil yield, and to optimize oil quality for satisfactory fuel properties. In this project, quantitative trait loci (QTLs) and molecular markers associated with these important traits will be identified using high-density genome maps and repeated field trials in Montana and Washington states. Modern genomics and biotechnological approaches will be employed to uncover novel molecular mechanisms (including genes and gene networks regulated by microRNAs and transcription factors) regulating fatty acid modification, oil accumulation and seed size in Camelina.
Goal: To improve energycane productivity and sustainability by providing resistance to key diseases through introgression of novel genes from Miscanthus into a Saccharum background. In this project, F1 miscanes (Miscanthus x sugarcane) will be backcrossed to sugarcane several times, and molecular markers associated with the disease resistance will be identified. Genetics studies will be conducted to determine if the resistance is conferred by one or few genes of large effect, many genes of small effect, or a combination of both large and small effect genes, enabling an optimized marker-assisted selection strategy.