GMO Corn-Stover Eats Itself, Makes Ethanol Processing A Breeze

corn, corn stover, ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, genetics

[social_buttons] Researchers at Michigan State are trying to get corn-stover to digest itself after harvest. Doing so would mitigate the costly pretreatment steps needed for the production of cellulosic ethanol from the non-edible parts of the corn plant.

MSU’s scientists are adding genetic material to the corn’s genome, genes that would normally be responsible for the digestive enzymes produced by fungi and the microbes in cow rumens. The newly transgenic plants store these enzymes in vacuoles in the leaves and stalk in a way that doesn’t affect the plant while it’s alive.

Theoretically, once the corn harvest is over, these plants would already be primed for the first step in their conversion to cellulosic ethanol (I’m making an assumption here): break open the enzyme-containing vacuoles and let “nature” take it’s course.

MSU’s professor of crop and soil science, Mariam Sticklen, commented: “The fact that we can take a gene that makes an enzyme in the stomach of a cow and put it into a plant cell means that we can convert what was junk before into biofuel.”

It’s true that corn stover makes up about half of a corn harvest, and that turning corn stover into into cellulosic ethanol could be a good thing. But it seems like we might have already figured out less complicated (and definitely less controversial) ways of doing this. See the related links for more.

What do you think?

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Source: Green Car Congress (Apr. 8, 2008): Researchers Modifying Corn With Genes to Produce Enzymes to Enable Simpler Production of Cellulosic Ethanol

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons


In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.