As farmers survey their fields this summer, several questions come to mind: How many plants germinated per acre? How does altering row spacing affect my yields? Does it make a difference if I plant my rows north to south or east to west? Now a computer model can answer these questions by comparing billions of virtual fields with different planting densities, row spacings, and orientations.
A multi-institutional team led by the University of Illinois have proven sugarcane can be genetically engineered to produce oil in its leaves and stems for biodiesel production. Surprisingly, the modified sugarcane plants also produced more sugar, which could be used for ethanol production.
Illinois plant biology professor Stephen P. Long and his collaborators have engineered sugarcane so that it accumulates oil in its stems that can be made into biodiesel. They now have an “oilcane” that accumulates 2 percent oil by weight, and their research suggests they can eventually raise this to 20 percent. Their work will be exhibited at the 2015 Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C. Long spoke to News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about the implications for food and biofuels.