Using White Rot Fungus for Corn Stover Ethanol

Cindy Zimmerman

There’s new scientific evidence that a certain fungus could help speed up the production of ethanol from corn stover.

A study on using the fungus to break down the tough cellulose and related material in this so-called “corn stover” to free up sugars for ethanol fermentation appears in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research

“Treating corn stover with the white rot fungus for one month enabled us to extract up to 30 percent more sugar from the leaves and 50 percent more from the stalks and cobs,” said lead author Yebo Li, Ph.D., from Ohio State University. “Because corn leaves are useful for controlling soil erosion when left in the field, harvesting only the cobs and stalks for ethanol production may make the most sense in terms of sustainable agriculture.”

Previous studies indicated that the microbe Ceriporiopsis subvermispora, known as a white rot fungus, showed promise for breaking down the tough lignin prior to treatment with enzymes to release the sugars. To advance that knowledge, Li and colleagues evaluated how well the fungus broke down the different parts of corn stover and improved the sugar yield.

Listen to the American Chemical Society podcast on the research here: ACS Podcast

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