Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) leads the Quantitative Plant Science Initiative, an effort to link genetic information to gene function to improve the development of sustainable and resilient bioenergy crops. [Courtesy BNL]
The Quantitative Plant Science Initiative (QPSI) integrates computational approaches with genome-wide and targeted experimentation into a versatile and scalable capability for determining gene function in bioenergy crops. This knowledge is essential to rationally design these crops for optimal and sustainable growth on marginal soils and to understand bioenergy-environment interactions, two missions of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE's) Office of Science. Initial research addresses an important, but often overlooked, issue in sustainable bioenergy and bioproduction: essential micronutrients. Insufficient zinc and iron bioavailability cause widespread decreases in crop yield. Research teams are using DOE resources and a multiomics experimental strategy to discover adaptive responses to suboptimal zinc and iron availability in two DOE flagship bioenergy crops, poplar and sorghum. This data will be used for a computational simulation of cofactor availability in the chloroplast, the major metal sink and site of carbon fixation and energy generation. Teams also are deploying an interdisciplinary approach to provide an experimentally grounded, sequence-specific understanding of molecular-level functions for genes heavily involved in chloroplast metal trafficking. Results of this work will provide transformative contributions to DOE's energy security mission.