Hesham Oraby, Venkatesh Balan, Rashid Ahmad, Callista Ransom, Bruce Dale, James Oehmke, and Mariam Sticklen. Michigan State University, 361 Plant And Soil Science Building, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States of America
For ethanol to be produced commercially from plant biomass sources, enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose to fermentable sugars is employed. At present, these enzymes are expensively produced in large-scale fermentation tanks. While rice seed is the useful portion of this important crop, its remaining biomass has limited use. Traditionally, farmers throughout the world burn rice fields after harvest. Burning is inexpensive and mitigates against rice diseases. However, the increased levels of smoke give rise to health concerns such as increased incidence of asthma. These concerns, for example, gave rise to California legislation that limits rice straw burning to its minimum in 2001, and even then burning is allowed only if evidence of disease is present. Therefore, rice could be recommended for use as a viable bio-based energy crop. Engineered rice plants can sustainably, efficiently and actively produce the desired hydrolysis enzymes internally. The financial analysis showed that production of hydrolysis enzymes in plant biomass might have the potential to be both economically and financially feasible. Also, as continued plant heterologous protein production technology improves, this potential will be better realized.
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