The top leaves of crops absorb far more light than they can use, starving lower leaves of light. Scientists designed plants with light green leaves with hopes of allowing more light to penetrate the crop canopy and increase overall light use efficiency and yield. This strategy was tested in a recent modeling study that found leaves with reduced chlorophyll content do not actually improve canopy-level photosynthesis, but instead, conserve a significant amount of nitrogen that the plant might be able to reinvest to improve light use efficiency and increase yield.
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.