Setaria viridis. (Danforth Plant Science Center)
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - Drought resistant crops will be the focus of a new study being conducted by researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded a five-year, $12.1 million grant to the Danforth Center and collaborators at the Carnegie Institute for Science, the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, the University of Minnesota and Washington State University to develop a new bioenergy grass, Setaria viridis, as a sustainable fuel source.
Drought is a major stress on crops and limits potential yields for farmers. The extreme heat and lack of rainfall, combined with 2011's mild-winter, resulted in low soil moisture and severe drought conditions, according to the Danforth Center.
Low yields will ultimately lead to higher food prices around the world and harm crops that serve as sources of bioenergy, such as corn.
The Danforth Center hopes bioenergy grasses can provide a sustainable source of renewable energy for the economy and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Bioenergy grasses have the potential for greater output because they can be grown on marginal farmlands, with fewer inputs than traditional row crops, like corn. Corn requires energy intensive annual planting and added chemical fertilizers, whereas bioenergy grasses simply require water.
The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, founded in 1998, is a not-for-profit research institute that receives funds through competitive grants and contract revenue.