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Sugar set for energycane reinvention

Date: 15.3.2019 

Gene-editing sugarcane for use in renewable energy and bio-plastics could help secure the industry's future.

Kredit: University of Queensland.The University of Queensland's Professor Robert Henry said sugarcane's reinvention as an "energycane" crop could sustain the industry in the face of falling global demand for sugar. "The industry must think beyond just producing sugar, to also producing electricity, biofuels for transportation and oils to replace traditional plastics," he said.

Professor Henry, Director of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at UQ, is conducting the first gene-editing experiments to tailor sugarcane production to effectively produce biofuels and bioplastics. "It's about reinventing sugarcane as a crop with a wider range of end uses, and sugarcane is ideal for renewables because it is fast-growing with abundant biomass," he said.

He is working with a global team to sequence the sugarcane genome as part of a US Joint Genome Institute project. "Sugar is the last major cultivated plant to have its genome sequenced, and we expect to see it fully decoded by 2020," Professor Henry said.

"Having sugar's genetic template will allow us to look at growing sugarcane as a biofuel and a source of 100 per cent recyclable bioplastic, making it a substitute for petroleum in the production of countless items from cosmetics to car parts," he said.

 


 

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