USDA-DOE Make Available $4 Million for Biomass Genomics Research

ST. LOUIS, MO - The U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture (DOE and USDA) today announced $4 million for bio-based fuels research that will accelerate the development of alternative fuels. The departments issued a solicitation for research proposals for new plant feedstock genomics research projects. Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, DOE Under Secretary for Science, made the announcement at Advancing Renewable Energy: An American Rural Renaissance, a conference jointly hosted by the two agencies in St. Louis.

“We are seeking to accelerate research breakthroughs that contribute towards making biofuels a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels, with a goal of replacing 30 percent of transportation fuels with biofuels by 2030. Close and effective cooperation on research between the Departments of Energy and Agriculture will be an important element for the success of this effort,” Under Secretary Orbach said.

“This joint research initiative shows a commitment to acquiring new alternative energy resources and improving the efficiency with which biomass and plant feedstocks are used to produce renewable fuels such as ethanol,” Under Secretary of Agriculture Tom Dorr said.

The new funding continues a commitment, begun in 2006, to conduct a fundamental research program in biomass genomics, to provide the scientific foundation to facilitate the use of woody plant tissue, specifically lignocellulosic materials, for bioenergy and biofuels. Developing lignocellulosic crops for energy fuels could use less intensive production techniques and poorer quality land, thereby avoiding competition with food production on better quality land.

The program will take advantage of significant advances in breeding, molecular genetics and genomic technologies and build upon the existing knowledge base of plant biology to enable researchers to confidently predict and manipulate plants’ biological function for bioenergy resources.

In 2006, DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research (OBER) and the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) National Research Initiative began the joint competitive grants program. The program focused on fundamental research on plants that will improve biomass characteristics and yield or that will facilitate lignocellulosic degradation. In August 2006, the agencies awarded nine research grants totaling $5.7 million spanning three years.

Information about the joint research program, the current solicitation and currently funded projects is available at The solicitation is posted on

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. Visit for more information.

OBER manages a diverse portfolio of research to develop fundamental biological information and to advance technology in support of DOE’s missions in biology, medicine and the environment. Visit /ber for more information.

The St. Louis conference was designed to get the best minds together – key stakeholders in biofuels, wind and solar energy – to discuss and ultimately help accelerate the research, development and deployment of alternative energy sources, the crux of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative.

Media contact(s):
USDA: Kristin Scuderi, (202) 720-4623
DOE: Jeff Sherwood, (202) 586-5806