Growing crops to make bio-fuel is controversial – they can take up valuable land and resources that could be used for food production and in the case of oil palms, large tracts of rainforest have been cleared to make way for this cash crop. But the second generation of bio-fuels hope to make use of more sustainable plant material – tough grasses, stubble and plants that grown on marginal land. But the difficulty is splitting the energy rich sugars from the tough woody material. But it is something that bacteria in cow’s foregut or rumen, have been doing for millions of years. Now geneticists are trawling through the DNA of these microbes to find the ones that do it best.
Listen to the Science in Action program here. The interview with DOE JGI Director Eddy Rubin begins at the 5:28 mark.