Ceres Readying First Optimized Seeds for Bioenergy Crops; Yield is the Goal
Ceres, Inc. is preparing to introduce its first commercial offering of energy crop seeds this fall under the trade name Blade to be ready for Spring 2009 sowing. The seeds—including variants of high-biomass sorghum, sweet-sorghum and switchgrass—are optimized for different growing zones, or agroecoregions. Other energy crops in the Ceres pipeline include: miscanthus, energycane and short-rotation woody species.
Ceres is focused on using its biotechnology to maximize yield. The region-appropriate Ceres switchgrass cultivar would deliver about twice the biomass of the switchgrass cultivar (Cave Rock) used in large-scale University of Illinois field trials, according to Ceres CEO Richard Hamilton.
Ceres uses high-throughput sequencing to characterize genes from various plant species; the company has so far sequenced about 80,000 genes and selected about 20,000 for further investigation. These are inserted into their model plant, Arabidopsis, which Hamilton called the “lab mouse of the plant world.” From these, Ceres defines valuable gene-trait combinations via high-throughput screens. Successful gene-promoter combinations are then moved into rice—a plant much closer to the grasses targeted as the ultimate energy crops. The most valuable of the gene-promoter combinations are then moved into their target energy crops for further evaluation.