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Enzyme may ease production of biofuel crops
New research from the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory suggests than an enzyme found in cork may help farmers grow crops used to produce biofuels more easily.
Scientists discovered that HHT - an enzyme that helps produce suberin, the substance in cork that controls the flow of water and nutrients and blocks pathogens - may be a key factor in the genetic manipulation of plants.
By altering the amount of HHT in crops used for biofuels, scientists may be able to control the permeability of plant tissues and make certain products easier to grow in harsh environments.
Chang-Jun Liu, lead researcher on the study, said "understanding suberin production may be particularly important for growing plants on the marginal soils that have been proposed for use in farming bioenergy crops."
Using less desirable lands for biofuel crop production could leave more arable land open for food farmers and alleviate one of the obstacles blocking the commercial use of bioenergy.
Developments in alternative energy sources will contribute to an increased demand for individuals with training from bachelors or masters programs in biofuel, sustainable management or renewable energy. For example, job opportunities for agricultural scientists are expected to rise by 9 percent over the next seven years. In 2006, agricultural scientists earned between $37,740 and $76,960 annually.