Improving sugarcane for biofuel: engineering for an even better feedstock

Eric Lam, James Shine, Jorgeda Silva, Michael Lawton, Stacy Bonos, Martin Calvino, Helaine Carrer, Marcio C. Silva-Filho, Neil Glynn, Zane Helsel, Jiong Ma, Edward Richard, Glaucia Mendes Souza, Ray Ming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sugarcane is a proven biofuel feedstock and accounts for about 40% of the biofuel production worldwide. It has a more favorable energy input/output ratio than that of corn, the other major biofuel feedstock. The rich resource of genetic diversity and the plasticity of autopolyploid genomes offer a wealth of opportunities for the application of genomics and technologies to address fundamental questions in sugarcane towards maximizing biomass production. In a workshop on sugarcane engineering held at Rutgers University, we identified research areas and emerging technologies that could have significant impact on sugarcane improvement. Traditional plant physiological studies and standardized phenotypic characterization of sugarcane are essential for dissecting the developmental processes and patterns of gene expression in this complex polyploid species. Breeder friendly DNA markers associated with target traits will enhance selection efficiency and shorten the long breeding cycles. Integration of cold tolerance from Saccharum spontaneum and Miscanthus has the potential to expand the geographical range of sugarcane production from tropical and subtropical regions to temperate zones. The Flex-stock and mix-stock concepts could be solutions for sustaining local biorefineries where no single biofuel feedstock could provide consistent year-round supplies. The ever increasing capacities of genomics and biotechnologies pave the way for fully exploring these potentials to optimize sugarcane for biofuel production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-255
Number of pages5
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • Flex-stock
  • Genetic engineering
  • Mix-stock
  • Sugarcane improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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