Scientists in Asia have developed a method to make biofuel from rice straw.

A two-year project undertaken by scientists from Hong Kong University (HKU) and Japan’s Kyoto University produced a method to make bioethanol – used as a biofuel – in a process that could be applied to other cereals.

By knocking out a key enzyme the biochemists found that fermentable sugar was released more easily, sugars that can be used for bioethanol production.

“This strategy can be applied to other cereals like maize, wheat, and barley as well as grass species (e.g. sorghum and switchgrass) cultivated around the world exclusively for ethanol production, so that they can be utilized more efficiently as raw materials for biofuel,” said HKU plant biochemist Dr Clive Lo Sze-chung.

The research was published in the journal Plant Physiology.