Matching cell-wall composition with conversion processes

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Funder Project Reference(s)

Effective start/end date01 Apr 201231 Mar 2017


The aim of the project is to enable the matching/ engineering of lignocellulosic feedstocks in which composition and cell wall architecture are optimised for conversion efficiency by biological and thermochemical processes. This work will deliver knowledge of cell wall structure and biosynthesis in Miscanthus as a strategically important energy crop and identify favourable alleles as targets for variety improvement to match feedstock to end use. We will exploit existing genomic resources in models and other grasses to translate cell wall composition knowledge to Miscanthus. High-throughput methods (e.g. infrared spectrometry) and chemical analysis will be used to characterise composition to: generate QTL for cell wall associated traits, test the effect of planting density and harvest time, identify new variation, and assess transgenic manipulations. In addition we will use infrared and micro-Raman spectrometry, and immuno-labelling approaches to explore the linkage between the expressions of specific genes, and chemical composition at the cellular level. We will also investigate the effect of differences in biomass chemistry on pre-processing and downstream conversion. Combined with genotyping, this will enable the genetic dissection of the cell wall in Miscanthus through the identification of QTL, haplotypes and expression markers associated with cell wall composition. We will also functionally test by transgenesis candidate genes. Plants will be phenotyped using a Lemna-Tec facility at Aberystwyth and infrared spectrometry. Collectively these studies will advance our limited understanding of cell wall biogenesis in grasses and enable the genetic improvement of Miscanthus for efficient biomass conversion.