Sequencing the Sugarcane Genome: The Holy Grail of Biofuel?

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Australian scientists are aiming to finish sequencing the genome for sugarcane by this time next year. Once completed, it could lead to the development of a super biofuel.

Sugarcane is already being widely harvested as a biofuel, but with the genome mapped researchers could pinpoint exactly where in its DNA specific traits are found. Those traits could then be more precisely manipulated to create “supercane”– sugarcane richer in energy and more suitable for transformation into biofuel.

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According to Robert Henry, one of the project’s researchers: “Energy canes have been touted, both here and internationally, as one of the most efficient future options for producing plant-based fuels, plastics and many sought-after bio-products.” For instance, Brazil’s fuel independence is a shining example of how sugarcane-based ethanol could one day replace petroleum in places where the crop can be widely grown.

Even so, until now the complex nature of sugarcane’s genetic structure has been a hindrance to scientists hoping to tap its full potential. “This will be an outstanding outcome, and the resulting database will include sought after, significant genetic information,” said Henry.

The finished draft of the sequence is expected to be available by mid-2010.

Source: The BioenergySite

Image Credit: sektordua on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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