Science Daily has the skinny on how we might wind up using fast-growing, high-density tobacco to save the planet from global warming – by creating bioethanol:
In the course of the research, which has been echoed by the journal Molecular Breeding, tobacco plants of the Virginia Gold and Havana commercial cultivars have been grown. The plants were genetically modified to increase their production of starch and sugars, which contributes to the increase in ethanol production.
As Prof [Jon Veramendi, head of the Basque Research Agrobiotechnology research group] explained, “what has been done now is fieldwork with these two tobacco cultivars and it has been found that the starch and sugars in the tobacco leaf are in fact higher.” Traditional tobacco growing allows the plant to develop and the leaves to grow and get bigger, as the nicotine is synthesised when the plant is more mature. However, if the plants are used for producing biofuels, the researchers go for a higher-density crop similar to that of forage crops: “the tobacco plants are sown very close to each other and various mowings are made throughout the cycle. When the plant has grown to a height of about 50 cm, it is cut and the output is taken to the biomass processing factory. That way, it is possible to obtain up to 160 tonnes of matter per hectare over the whole cycle .”
The main byproduct: edible protein.