The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Energy in a combined announcement on Oct. 21 said they will award $4.9 million in grants to four universities and the USDA Agriculture Research Service to study bioenergy development.
“This partnership allows scientists to delve even further into research that will lead America toward economically viable alternative energy sources that are efficiently produced,” Sonny Ramaswamy, director, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said in a statement. “By studying traits that allow biomass plant crops to be produced more abundantly, while becoming more sustainable and more resistant to pests and diseases, bioenergy can potentially become a widely-used energy source.”
The award amounts are $1 million for the University of Georgia; $1.2 million for the University of Idaho; $890,800 for the North Carolina State University; $1 million foir Cornell University; and $856,200 for the USDA Agriculture Research Service in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
According to the departments, the research will focus on, for example, targeting specific breeds of poplar trees and developing disease management strategies for them to maximize plant resistance and productivity while minimizing impacts on the surrounding ecological landscape. In addition, the research will use hybridization to develop improved, rust-resistant willow tree varieties with greater yields, allowing for a wider adoption of willow as a form of renewable bioenergy.
Lead image: Poplar plantation. Credit: Shutterstock.