The U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture have awarded 10 grants
totaling $12.2 million to spur research into improving the efficiency and
cost-effectiveness of growing biofuel and bioenergy crops. The investments are
part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to develop domestic
renewable energy and advanced biofuels, providing a more secure future for America’s
energy needs and creating new opportunities for the American farming industry.
“Biofuels, along with other advanced vehicle technologies, hold the
potential to help reduce our oil imports while adding new jobs and driving
wealth creation in rural America,”
says Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This investment in research will be
instrumental in developing the best possible crops to produce biofuels.”
“USDA is helping our nation develop the next generation of biofuels to grow
jobs and generate energy from new, homegrown sources,” says Agriculture
Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Combining DOE’s leadership in genome-scale technologies
with USDA’s experience in crop improvement will accelerate the efficient
production of biofuels.”
Overall, the USDA and DOE projects are designed to improve special crops to
be grown for biofuels—including selected trees and grasses—by increasing their
yield, quality, and ability to adapt to extreme environments. Researchers will
rely on the most advanced techniques of modern genomics to develop breeding and
other strategies to improve the crops. The research will be conducted on
switchgrass, poplar, Miscanthus, and Brachypodium, among other plants.
The potential benefits of this research range from decreasing oil imports to
increasing options for American farmers. Because these crops will be optimized
to tolerate conditions such as drought and poor soils, they can be grown on
marginal lands unsuitable for food crops, thereby avoiding competition with
food production. Farmers will have the option to grow bioenergy crops in
addition to other existing crop choices.
The 10 projects are located in California, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia.
This is the sixth year of the joint USDA and DOE funding program. DOE’s
Office of Science will provide $10.2 million in funding for eight projects,
while USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will award $2
million to fund two projects. Initial funding will support research projects
for up to three years.