Between sugars and genes

Fapes1234By Marcos de Oliveira
FAPESP – In light of the number of genetic, physiological and agronomic studies of sugarcane conducted in recent years, our older colleagues might say that the plant is being turned on its head. Scientists hope to gain a deeper understanding of sugarcane and its peculiarities with a view towards increasing the productivity of this plant of the grass family, brought to Brazil by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The ultimate goal is to produce more ethanol per hectare of land. These efforts include research aimed at making sugarcane better adapted to the so-called second generation of alcohol production, when enzymes will use the sugars recovered from crushed sugarcane, or bagasse, to form a kind of broth, and then produce more biofuel. For this reason, researchers from several Brazilian institutions are keeping one eye on basic research and the other on the future of the industrial process of ethanol production. The first scientific advance came in 1999 with the launching of the Sugarcane Genome Project, financed by FAPESP, and the most recent findings from that research confirm that sugarcane stalks and leaves have more sugars—basic substances for creating ethanol—in the hemicellulose fraction than in the cellulose fraction. These findings could change the course of second-generation ethanol production in the future.. >>Continue Reading<<

Source and Photo: FAPESP, October 2012
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