Sun Grant initiates new funding for biobased energy

The Sun Grant Initiative will be making available more than $1.3 million to area scientists and engineers developing and enhancing new sources of energy based on agricultural products. The Sun Grant Initiative is a national program established to create new solutions for America's energy needs and to revitalize rural communities by working with land-grant universities and their federal and state laboratory partners on research, education and extension programs. Projects are made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.  

The Sun Grant Initiative will be making available more than $1.3 million to area scientists and engineers developing and enhancing new sources of energy based on agricultural products.

“These much-needed research projects are made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation,” said Clarence Watson, director of the Sun Grant Initiative’s South-Central Region, headquartered at Oklahoma State University.

The Sun Grant Initiative is a national program established to create new solutions for America's energy needs and to revitalize rural communities by working with land-grant universities and their federal and state laboratory partners on research, education and extension programs.

Two types of projects are being funded: seed-grant projects allowing investigators to explore possible renewable-energy sources and processes and integrated projects that require multi-institutional participation.

Researchers Yanqi Wu, Nurhan Dunford and Babu Fathepure of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources were awarded grants totaling $205,858.

  • Wu’s $56,250 grant will focus on testing and breeding new switchgrass cultivars for increased biomass production in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Kansas.
  • Dunford will use her $74,608 grant to examine the effect of growth media chemical composition on algal biomass properties.
  • Fathepure’s $75,000 grant will be used to foster discovery of novel lignin-degrading genes in bacteria.

Texas A&M University researchers Dirk Hays, Joshua Yuan and Girisha Ganjegunte were awarded grants totaling $491,921.

  • Hays received $341,922 for his integrated research project exploring the commercialization of identity preserved grain sorghum with optimized endosperm matrices for enhanced bioethanol conversion.
  • Yuan was awarded $74,999 to develop a novel approach to increase biomass yield through altering prohibitin expression.
  • Ganjegunte received $75,000 to explore the use of alternate water sources for bioenergy crops production in arid regions of the United States.

Felix Fritschi of the University of Missouri received $367,158 to lead an integrated research project relative to assessing and predicting switchgrass and high-biomass sorghum yields and economic viability.

Donghai Wang of Kansas State University was awarded $75,000 to evaluate the potential of big bluestem for biofuels production.

Colorado State University’s Yaling Qian and Calvin Pearson were awarded grants of $75,000 and $74,861, respectively. Qian will study the feasibility and environmental impact of switchgrass grown on marginal land. Pearson will examine ways to develop low-input, high-biomass perennial cropping systems to support a bioenergy economy on marginal lands.

Maria Gutierrez-Wing of Louisiana State University will study the production of lipids for biofuels through mixotrophic growth of a mixed microalgae-cyanobacteria culture.

“The intent is to develop useful new technologies and knowledge that eventually can be brought to the marketplace,” Watson said.

The South-Central Region provides funding to scientists and engineers at land-grant universities in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.