19 February 2013

Africa: Making Better Biofuels to Help Feed the World

press release

Energy crops are plants that can be used to make biofuels. The ideal crop can be grown quickly and densely with as little input as possible from farmers on land that’s otherwise unusable by agrarians. Once harvested, these energy crops can be converted into biofuel through various processes.

In late 2009, a U.S. energy agency awarded $5 million to Ceres, an energy crop company, to field test high-yield, low-input traits in grasses such as switchgrass, sorghum and miscanthus. Since then, the company has produced test grass yields with up to 50 percent more biomass than other grasses - a promising indicator of success. Above, a Ceres researcher evaluates the performance of biofuel crops.

Founded as a genomics technology firm in 1997, Ceres now applies the techniques used in the Human Genome Project to crops. The grasses that Ceres is developing are growing bigger using less fertilizer than other grass varieties. Hardier grasses also require less land to grow and could be planted in areas where other crops can't grow.

Ceres' work could be applied to food crops, allowing farmers to grow more crops with fewer resources, thus lowering the cost of food and increasing our ability to feed the growing world population.

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