Markus Pauly Awarded Grant to Improve Plant Feedstocks

August 12, 2014

Focus is to increase potential energy yields


SorghumBy Karyn Houston
Plant & Microbial Biology

Three Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) principal investigators are among a dozen scientists who will receive funding from the federal government aimed at improving plant feedstocks for biofuels and other bio-based products.

The grants were announced jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which together will contribute $12.6 million to the three-year projects.

University of Illinois Crop Sciences Professor Patrick Brown, who heads the EBI project on perennial feedstock genomics, will receive $1.3 million to study variations in 600 types of sorghum to reveal traits that affect their cellulosic content and potential energy yields. His co-Principal Investigator is EBI plant biologist Markus Pauly in Berkeley. In his EBI project, Brown has been using sorghum as a model system to dissect the genetic control of traits relevant to bioenergy feedstock production.

Markus PaulyU of I Crop Sciences professor Eric Sacks will get $1.5 million to study Miscanthus and identify and field-test molecular markers associated with traits that improve the plant’s yield and adaptation, as well as those related to sugar and energy cane varieties. Sacks has been heading two EBI projects, one on genetic breeding of perennial grasses and the other on improving energy cane with genes from Miscanthus.

The joint DOE/USDA Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy program started in 2006 with the aim of improving the capacity of renewable feedstocks for biofuels, such as ethanol, and chemicals. The research is particularly focused on dedicated plant species that grow on land that can’t support food crops and require less intensive production practices.

According to the two agencies, the research is not only expected to advance knowledge of biofuel feedstocks, but also contribute to economic development in rural areas by providing additional opportunities for growers using marginal lands and needing few resources.


Markus Pauly profile