Bioenergy from crops is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. New crops such as energycane can produce several times more fuel per acre than soybeans. Yet, challenges remain in processing the crops to extract fuel efficiently.
Four new studies from the University of Illinois explore chemical-free pretreatment methods, development of high-throughput phenotyping methods, and commercial-scale techno-economic feasibility of producing fuel from energycane in various scenarios.
Scientists have proposed a range of technological options for sustainable, productive and resilient agriculture, providing multiple ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and helping to directly mitigate climate change.
In a freshman biology class, a simple demonstration comprises a candle and a plant in an enclosed space. Through the process of photosynthesis, carbon dioxide emitted by the candle is converted into oxygen by the plant, allowing the candle to last longer. For 18-year-old Bailey Goldstein, this experiment sparked his interest in photosynthesis.
The flag leaf is the last to emerge, indicating the transition from crop growth to grain production. Photosynthesis in this leaf provides the majority of the carbohydrates needed for grain filling--so it is the most important leaf for yield potential. A team from the University of Illinois and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) found that some flag leaves of different varieties of rice transform light and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates better than others. This finding could potentially open new opportunities for breeding higher yielding rice varieties.
Five years ago, the United Nations committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. Since then, however, world hunger has continued to rise. Nearly 9 percent of our global population is now undernourished, according to a 2020 report from the FAO, and climate variability is a leading factor driving us off course.
Biofuel and bioenergy systems are integral to scenarios for displacing fossil fuel use and producing negative emissions through carbon capture and storage. But the net greenhouse gas mitigation benefit of these systems has been controversial, due to concerns around carbon losses from changes in land use and foregone sequestration benefits from alternative land uses.
The crops we grow in the field often form dense canopies with many overlapping leaves, such that young “sun leaves” at the top of the canopy are exposed to full sunlight with older “shade leaves” at the bottom. In order to maximize photosynthesis, resource-use efficiency, and yield, sun leaves typically maximize photosynthetic efficiency at high light, while shade leaves maximize efficiency at low light.
Rice is a direct source of calories for more people than any other crop and serves as the main staple for 560 million chronically hungry people in Asia. With over 120,000 varieties of cultivated rice (Oryza sativa) across the globe, there is a wealth of natural diversity to be mined by plant scientists to increase yields.