A gene discovery made by a team of international scientists could pave the way for the growth of bioenergy crops that can grow in the harshest conditions.

Led by the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), it is the culmination of 10 years of research, which included input from academics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Universite de Lorraine in France, and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Alabama. The study, published in Nature Plants, also had the support of the DOE’s Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI).

“This is a remarkable achievement that could lead to the development of bioenergy crops with the ability to survive and thrive on marginal, non-agricultural lands. We could target as much as 20-40 million acres of marginal land with hardy bioenergy crops that need less water, boosting the prospects for successful rural, biobased economies supplying sustainable alternatives for gasoline and industrial feedstocks,” said CBI director Jerry Tuskan.