More than one hundred scientists will discuss recent developments in biofuel production from lignocellulosic biomass at the 26th New Phytologist Symposium 'Bioenergy trees' to be hosted by the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Nancy, France on 17-19 May 2011 (www.newphytologist.org/bioenergy). Over the last five years the European Commission and US Department of Energy have funded a series of research projects to develop poplars, pines and eucalypts as cheap and environmentally friendly feedstocks for biofuels.
According to the United Nations, food prices hit a record high in January 2011, therefore increasing pressure to introduce bioethanol sources that do not compete with agricultural crops. Lignocellulosic or 2nd generation biofuels are made using lignocellulosic biomass from tree species that can be grown on marginal lands which are unsuitable for food crops. This could replace crop-derived (1st generation, 1st G) bioethanol, currently the most widespread biofuel, and boost the share of biofuels in the transport sector to 10% by 2020.
Processing lignocellulosic biomass into bioethanol has the potential to be a low-cost procedure. However, the recalcitrant nature of lignin (a naturally occurring component that is crucial for plant growth) hinders this process. Francis Martin, a researcher at INRA, Editor of the New Phytologist journal and lead organiser of 'Bioenergy trees' hopes that research presented at the symposium and in the journal will further our knowledge of the mechanisms that control cell wall structure and composition. 'We hope that this will lead to the development of novel tree genotypes with enhanced growth traits and lower lignin contents,' Martin explains. The net result would be to improve yield and reduce the costs of bioethanol production.
There are a number of environmental benefits of using lignocellulosic-derived biofuels, compared t
|Contact: Rosalind Jones|