Developing feedstock and products for straw-based biorefineries

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Biology


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Description We now have rice straw from two seasons of growth of the rice diversity panel that we established with the previous partnering award with Vietnam and at least five QTL are robust over two seasons. The density of SNP markers we have identified in this panel means that the QTL regions are quite narrow and a number of strong candidate genes that we hypothesise to be responsible for the effects associated with these regions have been identified. We have also analysed straw from one seaon's growth for silicon and lignin content. Interestingly, we found that straw digestibility is strongly correlated with silicon content in rice and less so with lignin content. A number of QTL for silicon content and for lignin comntent have been identified and two co-localise with QTL for digestibility. We are now trying to validate the role of some of the candidate genes associated with the QTL. We have also been examining the fermentability of sugars produced from straw digestion.
We are now pulling together data for publications from the work. A paper on identifying QTL for straw digestibility in the Vietnam population was published in Biotechnology for Biofuels. The project has generated large bodies of data. Drawing together the high-throughput analyses for various parameters is a challenging piece of work. we are currently finalising a manuscript examining the use of pyrolysis GC-MS and other analytical methods, which allows us to examine correlations among the various parameters allowing novel observations of how factors such as lignin, hydroxycinnamic acids and silica correlatate with straw digestibility and one another. We are also working on two manuscripts examining the impacts of knocking out gene targets that emerged from our QTL analysis using Crispr technology. We have shared key QTL markers for straw digestibility with our partmers in Vietnam to be used in their ric ebreeding programs.
Exploitation Route Our work has revealed markers that can be used by rice breeders in order to improve the digestibility of rice straw, making it a better substrate for animal feed or for its use as a feedstock for biorefining. The work in rice offers far greater resolution than is possible in wheat or even barley and the results from this work may be translated to these species by identifying homologous genes in these species, that can be tested for their effectiveness in improving digestibility and exploited through marker assisted breeding. Building from this work, we received funding from the Newton Fund (via the Royal Society) to extend our GWAS studies to identify markers for QTL determining life cycle duration and enable the breeding of varieties with shorter life cycles to suit better the changing clkimate in North Vietnam.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport

Description During our studies of the rice diversity panel, we have found one rice accession that is consistently about three times more digestible than the population average over two independent growth seasons. This line shows low levels of both silica and lignin. Perhaps surprisingly, this accession with highly digestible straw is a commercial variety that is grown for its notable resistance to lodging and ability to withstand flooding. We believe that straw from this variety may provide a good source of animal feed and perhaps also be a very good feedstock for biofuel production- something that we will investigate in the near future. The project is a continuation of our on-going collaboratiomn with researchers from the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, University of Dundee and Institute of food Research. The work helped develop the case for a successful Newton Rice project BB/N013689/1
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Amount £697,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/P022499/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 04/2019
Description Developing rice resources for resilience to climate change and mitigation of carbon emissions
Amount £568,934 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/N013689/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 04/2019