Cows Helping Make Ethanol

John Davis

cowmicrobe.jpgA study by researchers at Michigan State University says that an enzyme from a microbe that lives in cows’ stomachs could help get more ethanol out of corn.

This story from Science Daily says scientists have figured out how to grow corn with the enzyme already in the grain… keeping lots of cows’ guts out of the picture:

The enzyme that allows a cow to digest grasses and other plant fibers can be used to turn other plant fibers into simple sugars. These simple sugars can be used to produce ethanol to power cars and trucks.

MSU scientists have discovered a way to grow corn plants that contain this enzyme. They have inserted a gene from a bacterium that lives in a cow’s stomach into a corn plant. Now, the sugars locked up in the plant’s leaves and stalk can be converted into usable sugar without expensive synthetic chemicals.

“The fact that we can take a gene that makes an enzyme in the stomach of a cow and put it into a plant cell means that we can convert what was junk before into biofuel,” said Mariam Sticklen, MSU professor of crop and soil science.

The new corn variety, called Spartan Corn III, is still in the testing stage. No word when it will be available for commercial production.

Ethanol, News