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Bioenergy and biofuels get US$12.2m from USDA and DoE

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Energy (DoE) have awarded 10 grants totalling US$12.2 million to spur research into the cost efficiency of growing biofuels and bioenergy crops.

By Kari Williamson

"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."

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, adds: "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.

"This investment in research will be instrumental in developing the best possible crops to produce biofuels."

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.

The bioenergy and biofuels crop research will be conducted on switchgrass, poplar, Miscanthus and Brachypodium, among other plants.

The crops will be optimised to tolerate conditions such as drought and poor soils and 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 bioenery and biofuels crop projects are located in California, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia.

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