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Green vacation: Go on an eco-friendly safari

Green vacation: Go on an eco-friendly safari

The primary goal of modern-day eco-friendly African safaris is to lessen the ove...

Nepal, the Maldives, and Bhutan could lose around 2 percent G.D.P. due to climate change – A.D.B. report

Nepal, the Maldives, and Bhutan could lose around 2 percent G.D.P. due to climate change – A.D.B. report

Nepal, the Maldives, and Bhutan could be looking at economic losses of around 2 ...

South Asian countries face economic losses due to climate change – A.D.B. report

South Asian countries face economic losses due to climate change – A.D.B. report

Various countries in the South Asian region are looking at significant losses du...

World Bank aids Laos’ hydropower with $40 million in financing

World Bank aids Laos’ hydropower with $40 million in financing

The World Bank Group has inked two agreements for around $40 million in financin...

Vestas, EP Global Energy partner for donor-funded wind farm in Jordan

Vestas, EP Global Energy partner for donor-funded wind farm in Jordan

Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas and private energy asset developer EP Global En...

World Bank commits $5 billion for African renewable energy projects

World Bank commits $5 billion for African renewable energy projects

The World Bank Group has committed US$5 billion towards supporting energy projec...

Seven creative ways to teach your kids about eco-living

Seven creative ways to teach your kids about eco-living

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.1 million jobs in the United States w...

Business

Technology

Politics

Heavy rains and floods could be the “new normal”

Heavy rains and floods could be the “new normal”

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Heavy rains and flooding experienced by three countries this weekend could be a sign of the “new normal,” according to the head of the United Nations ...

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Living Green

Nineteen easy ways students can help save Mother Earth

Nineteen easy ways students can help save Mother Earth

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Students are young, creative, energetic and outspoken that is why they have the perfect qualities to help save mother earth. They can be great eco-war...

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Renewables

Low-Carbon

Easy modifications to make your car more efficient

Easy modifications to make your car more efficient

Monday, 22 September 2014

There are plenty of reasons why you might be interested in lowering your car’s emissions. In some states, you may be required to pass a mandatory smog...

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Opinion

Unsustainable urban life: What's next?

Unsustainable urban life: What's next?

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Nutrition plays a critical role in everyone’s chance at a better future. Hunger, said Benjamin Franklin once, is the best pickle. Some say “pickle”...

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Grass genes, computer simulation employed for biofuel productivity

By Katrice R. Jalbuena

Grass genes, computer simulation employed for biofuel productivity

Next-generation biofuel advocates want non-food biomass such as fibrous grasses.

With more and more countries seeking to bring down their emissions by increasing the amount of biofuel in their fuel mix, the race is on to see which biomass feed stock can be the source of a sustainable biofuel industry.

While ethanol is an established biofuel, it has come under criticism for using food-based feedstock such as corn and sugarcane. Advocates for the next generation of biofuel are lobbying for the use of non-food biomass, such as fibrous grasses as well as residue from the wood processing and agricultural industries.

Genes from grass

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Rothamsted Research, with funding from Britain's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Sustainable Bioenergy Centre, have been looking at the genes in grasses and cereal crop responsible for the development of the fibrous, woody parts of grasses such as rice and wheat.

"What we hope to do with this research is to produce varieties of plants where the woody parts yield their energy much more readily - but without compromising the structure of the plant. We think that one way to do this might be to modify the genes that are involved in the formation of a molecule called xylan - a crucial structural component of plants," said Professor Paul Dupree of the University of Cambridge.

Xylan found in grasses is different from other plants. The researchers decided to study the cause of this difference.

They identified a gene found in wheat and rice called GT61 that, when transferred into a plant known as Arabidopsis, allowed it to develop the grass form of xylan.

"As well as adding the GT61 genes to Arabidopsis, we also turned off the genes in wheat grain. Both the Arabidopsis plants and the wheat grain appeared normal, despite the changes to xylan. This suggests that we can make modifications to xylan without compromising its ability to hold cell walls together," explained Dr. Rowan Mitchell of Rothamsted.

The researchers believe that their findings could eventually be used to breed a "multi-use" crop in which the grain could be used for food, while the straw and other woody components could be used to produce energy easily and efficiently.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Computer modeling of the biofuel process

Across the pond, researchers from the University of Illinois also reported on the findings of their research into the sustainability of woody biomass biofuel crops such as switchgrass and Miscanthus, species of fibrous grasses that can grow in marginal land.

Agricultural and biological engineering professor and department head K.C. Ting, with Energy Biosciences Institute research professor Yogendra Shastri and agricultural and biological engineering professors Alan Hansen and Luis Rodriguez, used a computer model to run simulations on the variety of steps needed to transform biomass to biofuel to try and find the best system to minimize the cost of producing biofuel.

The model, called "BioFeed," can be adapted to analyze any region of the world. For the purpose of their research, the U.I. team looked at Miscanthus production in a 13-county region in southern Illinois.

BioFeed found that a major challenge of the emerging biofuel industry in the area would be the need for a vast and steady stream of plant biomass.

"If the biorefinery capacity is 50 million gallons of biofuel per year, you need to deliver roughly 1,500 to 2,000 tons of biomass per day," Mr. Ting said.

While each optimized solution could have its drawbacks, the researchers pointed out, BioFeed would allow those involved in biomass to biofuel production to look and learn from simulations instead of through costly trial and error.

Agronomists recommend that the crop be harvested in January of February, a season of harsh weather in the Mid-West which could increase the expense. BioFeed found that a November harvest would reduce weather-related costs, but would result in higher fertilization costs in the spring.

Next, the researchers are building another model that considers how farmers and other stakeholders are likely to behave given various economic and regulatory factors.

The BioFeed model research, which was funded by BP, is described in papers in the journals Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining; Biological Engineering; Biomass and Bioenergy; and Computers and Electronics in Agriculture.


 



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