DOE announces $64 million to help develop bioenergy crops

By U.S. Department of Energy | August 22, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Aug. 21 $64 million in funding for 25 university-led genomics research projects on plants and microbes for bioenergy and bioproducts. 

The plant research—12 projects totaling $29 million over three years—focuses on expanding knowledge of gene function in plants to be grown for bioenergy and bioproducts.  The aim is to pinpoint the connection between specific regions of plant genomes and particular plant traits, so that features such as drought resistance and crop yield can be improved. 

The microbe research—13 projects totaling $35 million over three years—aims at better understanding of how communities of microbes cycle nutrients in soil and the environment.  The goal is to illuminate the critical role of microbes in shaping Earth’s environment.  In the process, the research is expected to shed light on soil processes that could impact the growth of potential bioenergy crops.

“We are entering an era when genomics is giving us ever greater understanding of what controls biological systems,” said Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar.  “This research will help us improve crops grown for bioenergy and bioproducts while at the same time deepening our knowledge of complex and interacting biological processes within specific environmental systems.”

Most projects are collaborations involving researchers from several institutions; many include one or more DOE national laboratories as partners.

Projects were selected by competitive peer review under two DOE Funding Opportunity Announcements, “Genome-Enabled Plant Biology for Determination of Gene Function” and “Systems Biology Enabled Research on the Roles of Microbiomes in Nutrient Cycling,” sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the Department’s Office of Science. 

Fiscal Year 2019 funding for the two efforts totals $25.4 million, with outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations.  A list of projects can be found here.