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USDA, DOE to Award $4M in Funding for Genomic-Based Biofuel Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Energy last week announced plans to commit up to $4 million in funding to support genomics-based research to improve the use of biomass and plant feedstocks for the production of fuels or renewable chemical feedstock.

"Renewable energy from plants, from lignocellulosic biomass, and from seed oils has the potential to reduce or remove dependency on fossil fuels as well as reduce negative environmental impacts from emissions of greenhouse gases and toxic pollutants," the agencies said. "Realizing this potential will require the development of high biomass-yielding crops that can be sustainably grown, requiring few inputs.

As part of a program initiated in 2006 to conduct fundamental research in biomass genomics, the USDA and DOE said they will provide as much as $4 million in fiscal 2016 for projects that accelerate the breeding of dedicated bioenergy feedstocks, particularly through the identification and characterization of the molecular mechanisms underlying plant resistance/tolerance to pathogens.

The agency added that it is also interested in research on non-food oilseed feedstock crops, including efforts to identify and functionally characterize plant genes and alleles influencing plant response to pathogens to enhance breeding programs, and projects uncovering genes and alleles that influence agronomic, yield, and quality traits of non-food oilseed crops excluding soybean and food-grade canola.

Annual budgets for each of the grants are expected to be in the range of $200,000 to $400,000. Projects should not request support for whole genome-scale sequencing, the agencies noted.

Applications for funding are due Febr. 2, 2016. Additional details can be found here.