Some brachy strains are more easily converted to ethanol than others

UMass Brachypodium Consortium microbiologists and plant biologists teamed up to develop an assay to measure the feedstock quality of plant biomass. Clostridium phytofermentans is a soil bacterium isolated from Harvard Forest in Massachusetts by Tom Warnick and Sue Leschine. Remarkable characteristics of this bacterium include the ability to degrade essentially all plant polysaccharides and produce copious amount of ethanol. The Hazen lab demonstrated that some mutants of the energy crop sorghum were converted to ethanol more quickly than normal varieties. They also showed similar differences in ethanol production in the energy crop shrub willow and among different accession of Brachypodium distachyon. This approach is now being used to characterize mutants and genetic mapping populations and potentially energy crop breeding programs.