Lignocellulosic biomass – consisting of complex polymers cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin in the cell walls of plants – is the most abundant organic material on Earth. With the right technology, cellulosic biomass can be converted into replacement fuels for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, and into many valuable bioproducts.

Building a successful biofuel and bioproducts industry depends, in part, on developing specialized biofuel crops or feedstocks that are optimized for deconstruction into sugars and fermentation into biofuels and bioproducts.

JBEI researchers in the Feedstocks Division are working on understanding plant cell wall biosynthesis and developing plants with improved properties for high sugar, low lignin, and yield of biofuels and bioproducts. The goal is to develop bioenergy crops that can thrive with little fertilization or irrigation on land not suitable for growing food crops. Feedstocks researchers are focusing most of the efforts on sorghum, a promising crop for biofuel production. Additional work is done in poplar and switchgrass.

Research Challenges:

  • The complex composition of biomass is a challenge for deconstruction and conversion
  • Tools for predictive biology and rational engineering of bioenergy crops are inadequate
  • The next generation of bioenergy crops must be high yielding and resilient to environmental stress and disease

Research Goals:

  • Develop a fundamental understanding of cell wall biology 
  • Develop tools to facilitate bioenergy crop improvement
  • Engineer bioenergy crops with improved biomass and sustainability traits
  • Ensure that engineered bioenergy crops are robust and sustainable
visit page Cell Wall Biology

Cell Wall Biology

Determining how plants make their cell walls and the role of cell wall polysaccharides in interactions with the environment.

visit page Plant Biosystems Design

Plant Biosystems Design

To develop tools for engineering of bioenergy crops and develop crops with improved composition.

visit page Plant Systems Biology

Plant Systems Biology

Taking a systems approach to understanding and engineering polysaccharide biosynthesis.

visit page Bioenergy Crop Engineering

Bioenergy Crop Engineering

Enable sustainable production of advanced biofuels and bioproducts by tailoring biomass composition in energy crops

visit page Grass Genetics

Grass Genetics

Taking advantage of induced variation and targeted engineering to characterize root system architecture, improve biomass performance and enhance microbial associations.