DOE funds pilot study focused on biosecurity for bioenergy crops

Research into threats from pathogens and pests would speed short-term response and spark long-term mitigation strategies

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science has selected Brookhaven National Laboratory to lead a new research effort focused on potential threats to crops grown for bioenergy production. Understanding how such bioenergy crops could be harmed by known or new pests or pathogens could help speed the development of rapid responses to mitigate damage and longer-term strategies for preventing such harm. The pilot project could evolve into a broader basic science capability to help ensure the development of resilient and sustainable bioenergy crops as part of a transition to a net-zero carbon economy.

The idea is modeled on the way DOE’s National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory (NVBL) pooled basic science capabilities to address the COVID-19 pandemic. With $5 Million in initial funding, allocated over the next two years, Brookhaven Lab and its partners will develop a coordinated approach for addressing biosecurity challenges. This pilot study will lead to a roadmap for building out a DOE-wide capability known as the National Virtual Biosecurity for Bioenergy Crops Center (NVBBCC).

“A robust biosecurity capability optimized to respond rapidly to biological threats to bioenergy crops requires an integrated and versatile platform,” said Martin Schoonen, Brookhaven Lab’s Associate Laboratory Director for Environment, Biology, Nuclear Science & Nonproliferation, who will serve as principal investigator for the pilot project. “With this initial funding, we’ll develop a bio-preparedness platform for sampling and detecting threats, predicting how they might propagate, and understanding how pests or pathogens interact with bioenergy crops at the molecular level—all of which are essential for developing short-term control measures and long-term solutions.”

Read more on the Brookhaven National Laboratory website

Image: Pilot study on an important disease in sorghum (above) will develop understanding of threats to bioenergy crops, potentially speeding the development of short-term responses and long-term mitigation strategies

Credit: US Department of Energy Genomic Science Program