Plants and bioenergy

Nicholas C. Carpita, Rowan F. Sage
2015 Journal of Experimental Botany  
Preface Plants and bioenergy As the world's emerging economies increase their petroleum and coal use the inevitable repercussions of fossil fuel dependency will continue to escalate. Among these are eventual restrictions in supply and spiralling costs of energy as easily accessed reserves are depleted. Regardless of supply is an unequivocal imperative to take immediate and aggressive measures to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing fossil-fuel consumption and increasing our use of
more » ... reasing our use of carbon-neutral or carbon-negative fuels. Economic growth and development worldwide depend increasingly on secure supplies of reliable, affordable, clean energy, and climate stability and environmental security require carbon neutral alternatives. Alternative sources of energy are thus a priority for modern society, and chief among these is the only proven mechanism to convert solar energy into marketable fuels, this being photosynthesis in plants and algae. The five leading oil-producing countries in the Americas produce a little more than 23 million barrels of oil per day (bbl d -1 ) of the world total of 85 m bbl d -1 (US Energy Information Administration, 2015). The marked increase in US output in recent years has made it the world's leading producer at 12 m bbl d -1 , yet its imports total almost 19 m bbl d -1 . Brazil is energy-independent today because of its forward-thinking energy strategy over the past two decades, its oil production and consumption are balanced, and their aggressive drive to produce bio-based fuels make them the world leader in the production of ethanol. Both Brazil and the United States committed funds and implemented strong research efforts in renewable fuels over the past decade. In response to this growing research effort, leading plant biologists in the Americas came together in a spirit of cooperation to develop a conference for discussing scientific efforts using plants and algae to improve energy security for the western hemisphere. Inpassed the broad issues of bioenergy capabilities and implementation. Senior governmental officers of Mexico, Brazil, and the US spoke on co-operative research initiatives for plant and microbial organisms to produce novel forms of bioenergy and strategies for the introduction of bioenergy crops into the agricultural landscape. Other talks emphasized how vast improvements in biomass quantity and quality were needed to reduce the agronomic footprint of agroenergy production while optimizing energy output: input for alternative fuels. Microbiologists and chemical engineers laid the groundwork for second-and third-generation biofuels. Other talks discussed the economics of bioenergy, and the governmental policies that would be needed to promote the agro-energy economy. Venture capitalists offered their perspectives on how the new agro-energy initiatives in the commercial sector could be funded. By the acclamation of the colleagues in attendance, it was agreed to meet biennially, rotating between the US, Brazil, and Canada. Subsequent congresses focused on scientific progress. In 2014, the 4th Pan-American Congress on Plants and BioEnergy was convened at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, covering a range of disciplines, including algal and plant systems for bioenergy, plant genetics and genomics, gene discovery for the improvement of bioenergy production and quality, regulatory mechanisms of synthesis and degradation, strategies for third generation biofuel production and the promise of synthetic biology in the production of biofuels and bio-based products, the development of cropping systems for biomass production, and mitigation of environmental impacts of bioenergy production. This special issue 'Plants and Bioenergy' is a collection of invited reviews and research articles inspired by the presentations at the Guelph congress and key research leaders of the Americas. Simas-Rodrigues et al. (2015) begin this edition with an overview for how microalgae, typically considered as sources of oil, can also be excellent sources of starch and biomass for ethanol production. Kim et al. (2015) describe how transcriptomic data mining and combinatorial gene stacking has been used for metabolic engineering of Camelina to produce oils containing medium-chain length fatty acids that mimic jet fuel hydrocarbon components. Tsogtbaatar et al. (2015) employed metabolomics as a powerful tool for both quantifying intracellular compounds and qualitatively assessing biochemical pathways and metabolic routes involved in the synthesis of
doi:10.1093/jxb/erv311 pmid:26359523 fatcat:slh4x2zimvhwfgsdynpolercku