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USDA, DOE Award $8.3M to 11 Labs to Use Genomics, Proteomic Tools in Biofuel Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The US Departments of Energy and Agriculture yesterday said they have awarded $8.3 million to fund 11 research projects to use genomics and proteomics technology to study certain plant species for their ability to develop biofuels.
 
The agencies said that these studies will “provide the scientific foundation to facilitate and accelerate the use of woody plant tissue for bioenergy and biofuel.”
 
Beginning this year, the DOE will put up $5.5 million for seven projects, and the USDA will funnel $1.5 million into three projects.
 
"These research projects build upon DOE's strategic investments in genomics and biotechnology and strengthen our commitment to developing a robust bioenergy future," DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a statement.  

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns added that these grants “diversify the portfolio or research” by looking into new ways to develop cordgrass, rice, and switchgrass in renewable energy sources. 

The following projects are being supported by the DOE and USDA:

  • The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University received $1.2 million over 36 months to map protein-protein interactions that are relevant to biomass production by focusing on proteins co-expressed in poplar xylem. 
     
  • The USDA-Agricultural Research Service at Cornell University received $700,000 for 36 months for an association mapping study researching how two biofuel grasses, switchgrass and reed canarygrass, can help identify molecular markers that could help speed breeding programs for enhanced biomass production. 
     
  • The University of Delaware has won $600,000 over 36 months to identify small RNAs that are related to environmental stresses, and relate them to the “emerging” genome sequence of Brachypodium distachyo, a grass species. 
     
  • The Agricultural Research Service at the Western Regional Research Center was awarded $600,000 over 36 months to create a comprehensive marker set for switchgrass.
     
  • The University of Florida was awarded $750,000 to identify and isolate the genes of a sorghum plant that control stalk juice sugar and decreased stalk ligning trait, with the hope of eventually combining these traits into a single germplasm.
     
  • The Agricultural Research Service at the Western Regional Research Center gained $600,000 over 36 months to collect insertional mutants in B. distachyon that can be used to identify mutations in genes that may affect biomass quality and agronomic characteristics. 
     
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory received $1 million over 36 months to study phytochrome-mediated response to competition in Populus, and use the information to attempt to maximize carbon capture per unit land area to increase biomass production. 
     
  • Mississippi State University has received $1.3 million for 36 months to use reverse genetic and functional genomics and proteomics to examine cell-wall synthesis in rice, a model grass bioenergy species and the source of rice stoyer residues.
     
  • South Dakota State University was awarded $420,000 for 24 months to develop PCR markers to construct an initial linkage map for prairie cordgrass. 
     
  • The University of Georgia received $400,000 over 36 months to construct a simple sequence repeat-based genetic map of switchgrass, and align it with maps produced in rice, maize, and sorghum. These maps will be aimed at exploiting switchgrass and to locate genes that may control “bioenergy traits.” 
     
  • The University of Minnesota was awarded $715,000 over 36 months to optimize the use of DNA markers to breed for high corn grain yield and high stover quality.