Yield and Processability Enhancement

The plant cell wall provides the cellulose that is the source of all industrial fiber needed for paper, board, wood, cotton and a multitude of other forestry or agricultural products, including the sugars used in second generation bioethanol production, as well as the chemicals for many plastics. The cell wall is a complex chemical composite, consisting of cellulose, bound together with other sugars (the hemicelluloses) and lignins. This composite forms a rigid structure surrounding the plant cell, which must undergo relaxation to allow the plant cell to elongate and divide. At the heart of our yield technology, lies our capability of producing plants that have altered cell walls, which maintain their integrity during normal growth, but are capable of accelerated cell wall relaxation and reconstitution. This results in accelerated growth and enhanced biomass, improved fiber properties, improved digestibility by livestock, improved industrial processability and increased yield properties.

Cell walls provide the structural strength to plants and comprise an important physical barrier to diseases and pests affecting plants. The cell wall has thus evolved a natural recalcitrance to destruction. This recalcitrance has now become a major obstacle for the economic processing of fiber in the plants or for the recovery of the sugar modules constituting the cellulose and hemicellulose polymers in the plant cell wall for biofuel production. We have developed a novel approach to overcoming this recalcitrance by engineering systems into the plant which are able to replace components of the hemicelluloses in the cell wall with novel sugars that are more easily leachable when the plant is taken into post-harvest processing for pulp or biofuel.

We have secured intellectual property covering plants with modified cell walls showing such altered properties.

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