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Increasing Photosynthetic Efficiency and Plant Productivity for Crop Improvement and Biofuel Production

Biofuels offer renewable alternatives to petroleum-based fuels that reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to nearly zero. However traditional biofuel production is limited not only by the small amount of solar energy that plants convert through photosynthesis into biological materials but also by inefficient processes for converting these biological materials into fuels. Farm-ready non-food crops are needed that produce fuels or fuel-like precursors at significantly lower costs with significantly higher productivity. To make biofuels cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels biofuel production costs must be cut in half. Researchers at North Carolina State University have genetically modified the oil-crop plant Camelina sativa to produce high quantities of both modified oils and terpenes. These components are optimized for thermocatalytic conversion into energy-dense drop-in transportation fuels. The genetically engineered Camelina will capture more carbon than current varieties and have higher oil yields. The Camelina will be more tolerant to drought and heat which makes it suitable for farming in warmer and drier climate zones in the United States. The increased productivity of this enhanced Camelina and the development of energy-effective harvesting extraction and conversion technology could provide an alternative non-petrochemical source of fuel.The principles underlying the genetically modified Camelina will also be used for improvement of other crops. Carbon dioxide uptake and assimilation is a limiting factor for plant productivity. Transgenic crops created with this technology will have reduced photorespiratory energy loss and enhanced photosynthetic efficiency thereby increasing plant productivity. In addition transgenic crops created with this technology will have enhanced thermotolerance drought resistance delayed senescence and photosynthetic centers protected from oxidative damage.


1) Enhanced photosynthetic efficiency and plant productivity. 2) Enhanced thermotolerance drought resistance delayed senescence and protection from oxidative damage. 3) Ability of plants to grow on marginal lands. 4) Will enable large-scale and cost-competitive production of renewable jet fuel from Camelina.

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