Secure America's Energy Future through Renewable Biofuels
Research to Create Sustainable Energy through Agriculture
Development of superior camelina as a biofuel crop for Tennessee
Dr. G. Zhang
Alternative crops with low production costs are a requisite for a sustainable biofuel industry. Additionally, a winter crop with a short growing season is needed for use in cropping systems in Tennessee. Camelina (Camelina sativa L.), an ancient oilseed crop, shows a great potential as an alternative winter crop for biodiesel feedstock in Tennessee since it requires low inputs and matures in the early spring. Our long-term goal is to develop camelina as a bioenergy crop for Tennessee. This project will focus on the introduction of camelina cultivars/lines with adaptability in Tennessee. There are four specific objectives for this project: 1) evaluate all available germplasm to identify those lines most adaptable to Tennessee and determine the extent of genetic variance for the future genetic improvement; 2) broaden the genetic variability and create new genotypes via mutation method, particularly for fatty acid profile, which has limited genetic variance among the germplasm; 3) initiate a breeding program to improve germplasm and develop elite lines/cultivars; 4) develop molecular markers for the traits of interested to assist the breeding. The elite lines identified by this project are expected to fit into the double cropping system in Tennessee, which will increase farmers' potential income and provide an inexpensive feedstock for biodiesel production. Because camelina is a low input crop in that it does not require much fertilizer and water, it will reduce agricultural impacts on the environment.
Characterization of novel hydrolytic enzymes for improving conversion efficiency of lignocellulosic biomas into ethanol
Dr. S. Zhou, Dr. R. Sauve, Dr. K Vercruysse, Dr. T. Johnson, Dr. C. Lee
The low yield of simple sugars released from lignocelluloses significantly affects economic production of cellulosic ethanol. Background studies, in our and other laboratories, have identified strong fibrolytic activities from microorganisms that inhabit the goat’s rumen. This project will investigate this microbial genome resource. The overall goal is to isolate and develop new hydrolytic enzymes that are more efficient compared to the commercial enzymes currently being used in the bioethanol industry. The outcome of the project will make significant impact on reducing the cost of bioethanol production. Accomplishment of the project will play a key role in achieving the Institutional goal of building a self-sustainable research and education program in alternative energy at TSU.
Mutagenesis of switchgrass to select for herbicide resistant mutants and varieties and selection of alternative energy crops
Dr. S. Zhou, Dr. R. Sauve
The uses of perennial grasses and other hardy plants dedicated for biofuel production will have positive impact on soil conservation and on the remediation of highly erodible marginal lands. These crops would not compete with food for land, nutrients or water. In addition, biofuel crops such as switchgrasses and other native grasses would, in time, add organic matter as well as reduce greenhouse gases. Once established, switchgrass is very competitive against weeds. However, seeds are very small and most are dormant and will not germinate. To break dormancy, seeds can be wetted and maintained in a cooler for one month and then carefully re-dried. The plants grow slow in the first year and seedlings compete poorly with weeds. There are no herbicides specifically registered for use with switchgrass. The development of switchgrass cultivars that are resistant to herbicides such as imidazolinone would greatly aide in the establishment of field planting. In addition to performing stakeholder oriented cutting edge research, this project will also provide educational and outreach opportunities for our students at TSU.
Enhancing sustainable production of bioenergy crops: improving quality and quantity of switchgrass yield through harvest timing or organic amendment application
Dr. J. de Koff
There is currently great interest in the production and use of biofuels to improve environmental integrity and national security. The U.S. government has identified switchgrass as a "model" bioenergy crop; it is expected to play a major role in meeting the demand for biofuel feedstocks. Current standards require a system of production that creates bioenergy feedstocks of specified quality and quantity. Improving the quality of switchgrass feedstocks is important to biochemical and thermochemical conversion processes for biofuel production. Therefore, it is important to identify management procedures that improve both quality and quantity of production while at the same time reducing the costs of production and processing. This information will help producers, specifically small farmers who want to diversify, to produce optimal switchgrass feedstocks for biofuel production. This part of the project is unique and important research because no research has looked at switchgrass growth in middle Tennessee and no research has taken this intensive a look at changes in switchgrass quality. Improving the quantity of switchgrass grown through the use of biochar can improve both the yield and the sustainability of the bioenergy crop. Identifying how these amendments relate to N fertilizer applications will identify rates that can be used to provide a lower cost alternative to farmers and prevent excess N losses.