Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide up to $30 million for basic research that will lead to transformative approaches to determine and validate gene function in plant species relevant to the sustainable production of bioenergy and bioproducts. This research aims to accelerate development of more efficient, high-throughput methods for interpreting experimental evidence for accurate determination of plant gene function.

Understanding the functional roles of genes for critical plant processes will help us gain a predictive understanding of plant performance under adverse environmental conditions,” said Sharlene Weatherwax, DOE Associate Director of Science for Biological and Environmental Science.  “These advances, in turn, could enable development of plants for bioenergy and bioproducts that are productive on land unsuitable for traditional agricultural crops, improving our energy security and environmental stewardship.”

Gaining insight into the individual parts of a plant and how they function in situ can enable predictive biology at a systems level. Crosscutting basic research and technologies can enable development of plants that have the potential to play a significant role in the emerging bioeconomy as an alternative source of renewable feedstocks for fuels and chemicals. Large gains in productivity and sustainability of such crops could potentially be made by leveraging multi-omics data to better understand critical plant processes. Supported research will address the challenges in associating gene(s) to function (i.e.genotype to phenotype) in plant systems relevant to energy production and the environment, with the goal of elucidating and validating the functional roles of genes, gene families, and associated pathways.

Applications will be open to universities, industry, and nonprofit research institutions as the lead institution, with collaborators at the DOE national laboratories and other federal agencies. Total planned funding is $30 million over three years, with outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement, sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the Department’s Office of Science, can be found here.