Carbohydrate metabolism and resource allocation in grasses

Lead Research Organisation: Aberystwyth University
Department Name: IBERS

Abstract

Carbohydrate metabolism plays a central role in the provision of substrates for bioenergy and biorenewables. The concentrations of readily fermentable carbohydrates in grasses are highly significant as a determinant for biofuel production. Further understanding of the regulation of carbohydrate metabolism in grasses is required for future plant breeding of energy grasses and to optimise the harvesting, storage and processing of biomass for efficient recovery of bioenergy/ natural products. Key objectives in this work are an understanding of (1) plant carbon partitioning/accumulation, at whole plant, tissue and sub-cellular levels, with emphasis on starch and sucrose in Miscanthus and on fructan, starch and sucrose in Lolium; and (2) expression of candidate genes and their association with QTL for non-structural carbohydrates. This work supports and integrates with studies on the identification of QTL for sugar metabolism (initially on Lolium, and later extended to Miscanthus) and the validation of QTL by marker-based test crosses. Transformation will be used to test gene function; candidate genes will be mapped and related to QTL on the Lolium and Miscanthus genetic maps.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Description An alternative to lignocellulosic feedstocks are those based on soluble sugars such as sugarcane. However sugarcane is not an option for temperate climates. A high sugar feedstock adapted to the UK is perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). Perennial ryegrass has been bred at IBERS to contain up to 40% by dry weight of soluble sugar in the form of fructan and therefore potentially to sugar cane. Considerable variation exists for this trait in L. perenne and candidate genes have been identified for this trait. An understanding of the regulation of these genes, as well as the synthesis and remobilisation of their end products have led to the use of these grasses in bioenergy and biorefining projects. High sugar perennial ryegrass is an ideal feedstock for platform chemicals, anaerobic digestion and hydrogen production and in a cross SUPERGEN consortia collaboration with University of Glamorgan, a pilot scale hydrogen plant has been installed at IBERS. A joint UKERC funded PhD student has exploited this plant and is modelling crop availability in the UK. IBERS researchers, with collaborators at Swansea University, have demonstrated lab scale fermentations of L. perenne and in the Grassohol project have scaled this up to farm level. A range of other feedstocks have also been tested in the laboratory.
Exploitation Route This research has led to collaborative projects with industry including: 1) Grassohol (Defra Renewable Materials LINK, BBSRC LINK, Welsh Assembly Government A4B) for the production of alcohol-based transport fuels from high sugar perennial ryegrass; 2) Fiberzymes (Welsh Assembly Government A4B) for the release of sugars from grass fibre for biorefining; 3) SERF (TSB) for the production of lactic and succinic acid from grass, using microbes isolated by IBERS, and the subsequent conversion of these acids to higher value compounds by Bangor University; 4) Sugars to products (BBSRC IBTI) for the conversion of polymeric sugars to surfactants and emulsifiers with Bangor Glyndwr Universities; 5) Pre-biotics (BBSRC FOF) from high sugar grasses with IFR. These projects involve interactions with a number of large companies including: Boots, Dow Hyperlast, Dow Chemicals UK, Industrial Co-Polymers, TMO Ltd, as well as SMEs and the National Farmers Union.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy

 
Description This research has led to collaborative projects with industry including: 1) Grassohol (Defra Renewable Materials LINK, BBSRC LINK, Welsh Assembly Government A4B) for the production of alcohol-based transport fuels from high sugar perennial ryegrass; 2) Fiberzymes (Welsh Assembly Government A4B) for the release of sugars from grass fibre for biorefining; 3) SERF (TSB) for the production of lactic and succinic acid from grass, using microbes isolated by IBERS, and the subsequent conversion of these acids to higher value compounds by Bangor University; 4) Sugars to products (BBSRC IBTI) for the conversion of polymeric sugars to surfactants and emulsifiers with Bangor Glyndwr Universities; 5) Pre-biotics (BBSRC FOF) from high sugar grasses with IFR. These projects involve interactions with a number of large companies including: Boots, Dow Hyperlast, Dow Chemicals UK, Industrial Co-Polymers, TMO Ltd, as well as SMEs and the National Farmers Union.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Academia for Business (A4B)-STARS
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Wales 
Department Welsh European Funding Office
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2013 
End 12/2014
 
Description BEACON + Biorefining Center
Amount £8,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Commission 
Department European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 07/2015 
End 12/2019
 
Description BEACON Biorefining Center
Amount £12,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation European Commission 
Department European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 07/2011 
End 06/2015
 
Description Integrated Biorefining Research and Technology Club
Amount £800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/I005390/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2012 
End 09/2016
 
Description Process improvement to enable economic production of prebiotics and demonstration of efficacy in feeding trials (PIPP)
Amount £194,263 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/P004849/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 09/2018
 
Description Technology Strategy Board - Chitin and lactic acid production crab shell waste
Amount £160,000 (GBP)
Funding ID TS/L006790/1 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2014 
End 12/2014
 
Description The commercial exploitation of novel prebiotics based on oligomeric fructans
Amount £109,609 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/I532953/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2011 
End 03/2012
 
Title Bioethanol from Grass 
Description Process for the conversion of grass juice to bioethanol and platform chemicals 
IP Reference GB1502174.4 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2017
Licensed No
Impact To early, not yet granted
 
Description ADAS visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation and discussion with representatives from ADAS as well as people from own institute on using grass as a feedstock for biorefining as well as for animal feed. Through these discussions, it is hoped that information will be conveyed to the farming community and industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description BBC Wales Radio Science Cafe Programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Recorded discussion in a glasshouse growing Miscanthus

Increased awareness and programme was mentioned at subsequent interactions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/radiowales/sites/sciencecafe/updates/20110809.shtml
 
Description Coleg Cambria visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation and discussion on aspects of biorefining and implications for the future farming community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Farming Group - Diversification 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation and discussion with Farmers on new opportunities to diversity into new crops or look for new markets for existing crops in the context of biorefining.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description IBERS Centenary Celebrations 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Celebration of IBERS 100 years in plant breeding. Presentations given on biorefining projects and available equipment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description National Farmers Union Wales 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Discussion to help direct delivery of NFU policy towards zero carbon including biorefining solutions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Newtown rotary Club Visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presented current and post research in the area of biorefining.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Renewble Transport Fuel Obligation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Participation in Science Media Centre Press Release on "biofuels: are we asking the right questions?" to coincide with the UK Governments launch of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation

After the press release there were follow up calls and interviews on the use of plants and in particular grasses for energy including transport.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
URL http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/biofuels-are-we-asking-the-right-questions/
 
Description Royal Welsh Show 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Annual displays and activities based on agriculature and environmental green issues, including on the planting of energy crops, non-food use of plants, use of grass to make ethanol and plastics. Activities sparked discussion with farmers, and public of all ages

Visit to activities at Royal Welsh Show leads to subsequent requests for information and visits to IBERS in Aberystwyth.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013,2014
 
Description Science Cafe talk and discussion on biofuels good or bad 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked many questions and a long discussion

No immediate but subsequent reference to the engagement by some of those attending
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.ibers.aber.ac.uk/mailing_list/view_newsletter.asp?ID=42
 
Description Science Cafe talk and discussion on food vs fuel 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked many questions and a long discussion afterwards.

The discussion resulted in greater understanding of the broader and deeper implications by the audience and myself.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009