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UGA gets $2.5 million in grants to study plants to make biofuels
Date:8/7/2008

University of Georgia researchers were recently awarded two grants totaling $2.5 million to help find better ways to produce biofuels from switchgrass and sunflowers.

UGA was one of eight universities to receive grants from a program jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy. The program aims to accelerate research in biomass genomics and further the use of cellulosic plant material for bioenergy and biofuels.

"Developing cost-effective means of producing cellulosic biofuels on a national scale poses major scientific challenges," said Raymond Orbach, a DOE undersecretary. "These grants will help in developing the type of transformational breakthroughs needed in basic science to make this happen.

"The USDA is committed to fostering a sustainable domestic biofuels industry at home in rural America," said Gale Buchanan, a USDA undersecretary. "These grants will broaden the sources of energy from many crops as well as improve the efficiency and options among renewable fuels."

The UGA grants were awarded to scientists in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Steven Knapp, CAES professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, Jeff Dean and Joe Nairn, UGA researchers, Mark Davis, DOE researcher, and Laura Marek, USDA researcher, received $1.2 million to study the genomics of sunflower.

"Certain wild species of sunflower produce woody stems and high biomass yields, often reaching heights of 18 to 21 feet," Knapp said. "Our grant focuses on understanding genetic mechanisms underlying wood production and biomass accumulation in sunflower."

In addition, Knapp is working with Mark Davis at the DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado to study the biofuel properties of sunflower.

"They will be providing us with state-of-the-art chemical measurements which are needed to identify genetic facto
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Contact: Faith Peppers
pepper@uga.edu
770-640-4840
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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