DOE and USDA Award $10 Million for Cellulosic Biofuel Research
July 31, 2008
DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on July 31 their plans to award 10 grants, totaling more than $10 million, to accelerate fundamental research in the development of cellulosic biofuels. The grants will be provided through a joint DOE-USDA grant program that aims to accelerate fundamental research in biomass genomics and to further the use of cellulosic plant material for bioenergy and biofuels. The grant awardees include Colorado State University, the University of Massachusetts, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University in Indiana, and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research in New York, in addition to Oregon State University and the University of Georgia, which are both receiving two grants. DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research will provide $8.8 million of the total funds for these awards, while USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service will provide $2 million. See the DOE press release.
Most of the awardees will be investigating ways to improve the performance of switchgrass, a fast-growing perennial grass that can be used to produce cellulosic ethanol. They'll be using a number of "model organisms"—simpler plants that can yield insight into the more complex switchgrass genome—including purple false brome (Brachypodium distachyon), foxtail millet, maize, and rice. One awardee will study the symbiotic relationship of switchgrass and soybeans to a fungi that boosts production, using model organisms like purple false brome and barrel medic (Medicago truncatula), a simple legume. In addition, two awardees will be studying sunflowers and poplar, which can also be converted into biofuels, while one project will develop computation tools for making better use of existing genome data. See the full list of awardees, which includes links to abstracts on the work, on DOE's Genomics Web site.