Matching cell-wall composition with conversion processes

Lead Research Organisation: Aberystwyth University
Department Name: IBERS

Abstract

The aim of the project is to enable the matching/ engineering of lignocellulosic feedstocks in which composition and cell wall architecture are optimised for conversion efficiency by biological and thermochemical processes. This work will deliver knowledge of cell wall structure and biosynthesis in Miscanthus as a strategically important energy crop and identify favourable alleles as targets for variety improvement to match feedstock to end use. We will exploit existing genomic resources in models and other grasses to translate cell wall composition knowledge to Miscanthus. High-throughput methods (e.g. infrared spectrometry) and chemical analysis will be used to characterise composition to: generate QTL for cell wall associated traits, test the effect of planting density and harvest time, identify new variation, and assess transgenic manipulations. In addition we will use infrared and micro-Raman spectrometry, and immuno-labelling approaches to explore the linkage between the expressions of specific genes, and chemical composition at the cellular level. We will also investigate the effect of differences in biomass chemistry on pre-processing and downstream conversion. Combined with genotyping, this will enable the genetic dissection of the cell wall in Miscanthus through the identification of QTL, haplotypes and expression markers associated with cell wall composition. We will also functionally test by transgenesis candidate genes. Plants will be phenotyped using a Lemna-Tec facility at Aberystwyth and infrared spectrometry. Collectively these studies will advance our limited understanding of cell wall biogenesis in grasses and enable the genetic improvement of Miscanthus for efficient biomass conversion.

Publications

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Bhatia R (2017) Genetic engineering of grass cell wall polysaccharides for biorefining. in Plant biotechnology journal

 
Description 1) Immunofluorescence-based techniques with cell wall-directed antibodies have revealed that the cell wall sugar distribution and molecular architecture in different Miscanthus species are highly heterogeneous. These cell wall sugars can now be dissected in newly created crosses in wide crosses of different Miscanthus species.
2) Establishment of Raman spectroscopy with chemometric modelling is enabling the spatial dissection of cell wall components in grasses. Genes identified as differentially expressed in elongating and non elongating nodes are being manipulated to test their impact on cell wall structure. This is initially being tested in maize and is revealing cell wall architectural changes.
3) A comprehensive and detailed picture of the Miscanthus cell wall has been assembled, including a reference cell wall glycome, highlighting development and tissue-derived variation of cell wall properties which will help steer Miscanthus breeding and engineering strategies.
4) Correlation analyses between the results from various digestibility assessment methods and the cell wall compositional analysis highlight the limited predictive power of single compositional traits, including lignin content, as indicators of cell wall recalcitrance.
5) Results indicate that high cell wall carbohydrate content is not synonymous with high saccharification efficiency. Generating less recalcitrant varieties, even at the cost of biomass yield reductions, could allow substantial savings in transport and downstream biomass processing.
Exploitation Route The information generated will help in the development of Miscanthus varieties aimed at different end uses for example heat and power vs. biofuels or industrial biotechnology.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment

 
Description The information generated in this project will help in the development of Miscanthus varieties aimed at different end uses for example heat and power vs. biofuels or industrial biotechnology. The most immediate impact is likely to be with heat and power industries given the markets currently exist but in the future greater matching to new markets as they emerge. The tools to measure cell wall parameters faster and at low cost, eg. by infra-red spectroscopy, have been published.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Participation in BEIS consultation on the Bioeconomy
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description BBSRC iCASE: Investigating the feasibility of a multi-conversion Miscanthus bioenergy crop
Amount £95,042 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/M017389/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2016 
End 04/2020
 
Description BBSRC: [16- FAPESP-BE] An integrated approach to explore a novel paradigm for biofuel production from lignocellulosic feedstocks
Amount £1,491,030 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/P017460/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2016 
End 11/2020
 
Description BEACON+ Biorefining Centre
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 Horizon 2020 BBI; Growing advanced industrial crops on marginal lands for biorefineries (GRACE)
Amount € 15,000,851 (EUR)
Funding ID 745012 
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 06/2017 
End 05/2022
 
Description Optimising biomass conversion on Miscanthus for bioenergy and industrial materials (Taiwan)
Amount £25,304 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/L003953/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2013 
End 06/2016
 
Description RCUK-CONFAP Newton Fund: UNDERSTANDING CELL WALL STRUCTURE AND HYDROLYSIS OF TWO LEADING C4 BIOENERGY CROPS TO IMPROVE SECOND GENERATION BIOETHANOL PRODUCTION
Amount £27,720 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/M029212/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 06/2016
 
Description Real time control of gasifiers to increase tolerance to biomass variety and reduce emissions
Amount £999,756 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M01343X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2015 
End 03/2018
 
Description BBC Wales Science Cafe: The Welsh Science Wishlist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An interview for BBC Radio Wales Science Cafe. The programme was ahead of the Welsh Government Elections in May 2016 and was to articulate The Welsh Science Wishlist for the incoming government. Iain Donnison gave the interview on wishes for the future environmental policy.

Science votes
The Welsh Government believes that science in Wales is world class. And on this programme we frequently trumpet the pioneering research at our universities. But is enough being done to build a strong and successful scientific community? Many in Wales are concerned that we are failing on science education and in preparing for the digital future. In this special edition of Science Café scientists reveal, for the policy makers, their wish lists. And ahead of next month's elections, the political parties outline their scientific priorities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0776lxj
 
Description Bioeconomy conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Germany are leaders in the development of the bioeconomy, and three of the Aberystwyth and Terravesta team were heavily involved in the feedstock supply side of this event. I was a session chair.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://biooekonomie-bw.uni-hohenheim.de/startseite
 
Description Engagement with Young Farmers Groups 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Engagement through talks, tours and discussions with Young Farmers groups on what agricultural research is taking place at IBERS, Aberystwyth and how this can impact farming now and in the future.

Requests for visits/ tours and for repeat visits from larger groups.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
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