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Biotech Canada United Kingdom

Researchers Find Wood-Digesting Enzyme In Bacteria 86

AffidavitDonda writes with news that University of Warwick and University of British Columbia researchers have "identified the gene for breaking down lignin in a soil-living bacterium called Rhodococcus jostii. Although such enzymes have been found before in fungi, this is the first time that they have been identified in bacteria. The bacterium's genome has already been sequenced which means that it could be modified more easily to produce large amounts of the required enzyme. In addition, bacteria are quick and easy to grow, so this research raises the prospect of producing enzymes which can break down lignin on an industrial scale. By making woody plants and the inedible by-products of crops economically viable the eventual hope is to be able to produce biofuels that don't compete with food production."
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Researchers Find Wood-Digesting Enzyme In Bacteria

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  • Re:dandelions? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Saturday June 11, 2011 @05:48PM (#36413598)

    Dandelions aren't supposed to be weeds; they were brought to the New World by European colonists on purpose, as a food crop. Every part of a dandelion is edible.

  • Re:Ruminants. (Score:4, Informative)

    by macraig ( 621737 ) <> on Saturday June 11, 2011 @06:36PM (#36413888)

    Cellulose != lignin. Lignin is a much nastier polymer to digest.

  • Re:Soil depletion (Score:5, Informative)

    by Troggie87 ( 1579051 ) on Saturday June 11, 2011 @09:36PM (#36414958)

    I can't speak for the large operations, but on the small (thousand-ish) acre farm where I grew up we baled cornstalks just like hay or straw. The big cornstalk bales are piled off to the side where they are used as animal bedding (either in the feedlot sheds or pushed around in the fields for the roaming herds). It gives the animals a warm comfortable place to sleep, mostly just during the winter. Once it thaws or becomes too messy the shed is cleaned into a manure spreader, and flung onto fields that need it (either visibly or based on a soil analysis). Generally this results in the poo+cornstalks being plowed back in at the start of spring.

    I know its not popular on here, but there is a point at which you just have to accept that humans change their environment, and there will be casualties. Rather than wasting a bunch of money fighting and regulating every industry on the planet, its probably more realistic to regulate enough to make the environment safe for people and buy separate reserves to set aside for animal habitat. Its not a solution I like either, but turning back the clock on over a hundred years of industrial progress just isn't going to happen.

    Not to mention there is a law of diminishing returns on farm regulation: past a certain point, regulation make small scale farming infeasible. But large scale farms are far and away more likely to use "unfriendly" farming methods, largely because the connection to the land isn't there. If you over regulate (and its already happening) small farmers who are likely to care about the land get bought out by superfarms. Superfarms typically don't care about sustainability or the landscape. Two farms near us recently went under, and when they were purchased all the wooded areas that had been used for grazing were chopped and plowed under. The regulations that were supposed to help protect wildlife ended up doing tremendous harm.

    Another example is Monarch Butterflies. Monarchs feed exclusively on milkweed, and the best place to find milkweed as I grew up was on fence lines (typically between cow-pastures). As farms merge and pasture is being plowed in favor of large straight fields that giant farm implements can drive easily, these areas are vanishing (the idea that the price of corn is diving these changes isn't entirely true, the fact is that even if corn was dirt cheap its more cost effective for a large farm to grow it in giant straight fields with giant implements). Not surprisingly, experts are now worried about declining Monarch populations. Food for thought, I hope.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Saturday June 11, 2011 @10:38PM (#36415214)

    Because corn isn't food. Maybe hundreds of years ago when native americans were selectively breeding it. Even then, it was kinda crappy, and they had to supplement it carefully with other things or else they would suffer malnutrition. In the 20th century, we've genetically engineered all the nutrients out or corn, making it mostly a source of lousy sugar. Corn is more useful to make fuel and biodegradable plastic than it is as a food.

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