About Our Plants
Research at the Center involves a wide array of plants. Here are just a few, and why they're important.
This species of blue green algae is one of the Center’s newest prospects in biofuel research. Oil produced by algae can be made into energy-dense biodiesel that is relatively compatible with our established energy infrastructure. Algae also has the potential to be utilized as a tool for capturing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere.
This flowering plant, related to cabbage and mustard, is the standard “model plant” used for exploratory research in plant science. The first plant to have its entire genetic code sequenced, its small, well-characterized genome, fast growth, and physical size make it an ideal test candidate for plant science research.
This oilseed plant features an unusually high concentration of fatty acids that are of potential interest for the development of industrial products and biodiesel, as well as biodegradable plastics. Camelina is also being utilized as a model plant, as it is possible to extract tiny chips from the seeds for genetic testing without damaging the seed’s viability. Its traits can be transformed with a straightforward “flower dip” process; many other plants require more time and labor-intensive tissue culture work to achieve the same results. Camelina also boasts a short seed-to-seed cycle, allowing for four experimental growth cycles each year.
A starchy root crop that is a staple food for more than half a billion people, primarily in Africa. Cassava has the ability to grow on marginal land where cereals and other crops do not grow well because it can tolerate to drought and can grow in low-nutrient soils.
A staple food and feed crop for humans and animals; scientists are working to utilize the unused, inedible parts of corn as a feedstock for biofuels like ethanol. Research is also underway in creating “mycotoxin-free maize,” which would significantly reduce mold in the grain that can be poisonous to both animals and humans.
Scientists at the Center are studying multiple facets of soybeans. It is a potential source of biofuels, both from its oil content and by creating ethanol from its biomass. Researchers are also studying ways to potentially use soy as a protein “factory,” producing industrial enzymes that are otherwise expensive to produce. Center researchers are also working to better understand the causes of soy allergies, enhance soy with additional beta-carotene, and are investigating the seed’s well-known health benefits.