Spalding said the best analogy would be to stacking traits in corn.
Farmers could plant simple, unmanipulated lines of corn that have high yield, he said. But you wouldn't get the drought tolerance you want.
You could plant drought-tolerant corn, but you wouldn't get standability. But by genetically manipulating the corn, you can get all the traits you need.
Spalding believes his three-year study will produce many desirable traits in Chlamydomonas alga.
"Our project will probably lead to increased production of basically vegetable oil that can be converted to biodiesel," Spalding said. "Using the same process we are using to increase that oil production, we also could divert the production into hydrocarbons, which are closer to petroleum."
The end result could have several benefits.
"It will mean we will have a more sustainable source (of biofuels) than we have now -- more sustainable and more flexible," he said.
And since algae are not a feed source for animals, using algae for biofuels will not lead to higher commodity or food prices.
|Contact: Dan Kuester|
Iowa State University