GMO switchgrass—potential biofuel crop—does not hurt soil health, study finds

Overcoming the natural resistance of plant cell walls to deconstruction, known as recalcitrance, is a major bottleneck to cost-effective biofuel production. In response, scientists modified lignin. Lignin is one of the polymers responsible for recalcitrance and crucial for structural support within plant tissues. Modifying lignin improved the conversion of plant biomass to fuel. Yet a question remained. Will specifically modified bioenergy crops negatively impact the local soil? In field studies, researchers confirmed that growing genetically manipulated switchgrass has no negative effects on soils over the short terms studied (2 to 5 years).

Cultivating genetically modified bioenergy crops over large areas could greatly improve biofuel production.

The team evaluated physical, chemical, and biological parameters of soil health over several years during field trials of engineered switchgrass. The study found no significant effects.

Scientists at the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) genetically modified switchgrass, a promising bioenergy crop, to produce less lignin resulting in an improved ethanol conversion process.

[The study] showed no detectable effect on soil chemistry…. The soil microbiome, important to the fate of nutrients and carbon, exhibited seasonal differences between the altered and control crops, but overall there was no significant difference.

Editor’s note: Read full study

Read full, original post: Modified switchgrass has no negative effect on soils

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2 thoughts on “GMO switchgrass—potential biofuel crop—does not hurt soil health, study finds”

  1. That photo screams UNNATURAL. IF you’re trying to install confidence, you picked the wrong photo. Plus, it is well-documented that GE switchgrass has escaped its field trials and is contaminating wild grasses without control. It’s even been mapped in a university study. Why not just grow non-GMO switchgrass? Oh, right, then there’s no kill gene to patent to ensure the corporation gets premium prices for the seeds they sell every year.

    • Except for the little detail that variety protection applies to seeds regardless of them being transgenic, or conventional. This provides the company or breeder with exclusive rights for up to 25 years (longer for some fruit trees).

      If a farmer wants to use a registered variety, they must abide by whatever agreement is forged between the seed producers and the farmer. Unless they obtain permission, they are not permitted to save or replant seed, and this is true regardless of if the make use of conventional or organic farming.

      They are free to make use of varieties where the protection has expired, and can save, replant, and sell whatever they desire…of course the new varieties are almost always superior from an agronomic and yield perspective.

      Oh, and variety protection has been in place since around 1930…way before genetic engineering.

      Would you care to try again? Before you do, you might want to look up the Plant Patent Act of 1930, the Patent Act of 1952, and the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970.

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