The need for a renewable and affordable source of carbon that can sustain future economic development without negatively impacting the environment is now widely recognised. It is also apparent that the increasingly high demand for fossil carbon will eventually deplete existing stocks.
The Plant Journal is pleased to present a series of invited peer-reviewed articles that describe processes that plants can or could use to convert their fixed carbon into fuels and other useful products. The articles were commissioned to provide an authoritative scientific backdrop to inform discussion in debates on finding alternative and reliable sources of carbon.
Co-edited by Christoph Benning from Michigan State University and Eran Pichersky from the University of Michigan, this special issue is freely available to download online here: http://www.
The Special Issue is also accompanied by a podcast - an interview with Christoph Benning, Co-Editor and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology - available to download here: http://www.
The 17 articles in this special issue cover topics related to the production of biofuel from plant or algal biomass. In addition, several articles highlight the usefulness of plant s for the production of pharmaceutical drugs and other high value chemicals and polymers. A flavour of the scope of articles is given below.
Smith reports on how increases in yield of starch and sugars could lead to a sustainable production of bioethanol as a liquid transport fuel.
The major scientific and technical research challenges of utilizing the abundance of plant cell walls as a renewable resource is discussed in two articles by Pauly and Keegstra and Li et al.
The challenges facing the widespread adoption of biodiesel are addressed by Durret et al.
Biofuel production from microalgae, pond scum, is discussed by Hu et al. as an alternative to land-based agricultural production of plant biomass that may avoid competition with food production.
Trichomes, leave hairs, are highly specialized chemical factories that produce valuable compounds such as peppermint oil as explained by Schillmiller et al.
The special issue clearly illustrates the scope of involvement of plant biologists and biochemists in contributing rational solutions to the global shortage of fossil carbon supply.
The special issue intends to provide a sound and balanced plant biology and biochemistry background on the topic to educators and media as well as experts and interested laypeople.