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We are developing the traits needed for the bioenergyl industry to reach commercial scale, improving not only the economics of production, but also the environmental benefits. In most cases, our traits are developed through a combination of technologies.

Many of these same traits are useful to row crops.

High Biomass Yield Density

High Biomass Yield Density Plant

The larger plant (on right) displays trait to produce high biomass yield; in the smaller plant, the trait is absent.

We can impact yields by altering plant physiology, efficiency of photosynthesis and plant architecture, among other traits.


Low agronomic and energy inputs

Plants improved to possess low agronomic and energy inputs

The larger plants (left) are able to take up nutrients more efficiently than the smaller ones (right).

We have identified a variety of genes and traits that enable crops to take up and utilize nutrients more efficiently. In 2009, Ceres received to presigious ARPA-E grant to test low input, high-yield traits >>


Compositional analysis graph

We can determine which varieties contain the ideal ratio of components to produce more cellulosic biofuels.

Plant species and varieties vary in their relative content of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin — the three major components of biomass. A higher level of cellulose and hemicellulose could allow biorefineries to produce more biofuel per ton of biomass.

Processing efficiency

Plant cross-sections diplaying low, normal and hign lignin content

The red color indicates the amount of lignin; These plants (top to bottom) contain low, average and high amounts of lignin.

Designing a crop with improved processing characteristics will help make biofuels from cellulose more competitive. We have demonstrated the ability to change the chemical composition of biomass and alter its conversion performance.

Stress tolerance

Stress tolerance traits protect crop yields and allow growers to produce energy crops on marginal lands rather than food crop acres.

Salt tolerant plant


High levels of salt in the soil inhibit a plant's ability to take up water, and cause dehydration. Shown here, roots of new cultivars (bottom) remain healthy under high salt conditions. This trait could turn high-saline soil into arable land and increase productivity.

Temperature tolerant plant


Genes discovered by Ceres enable plants to continue photosynthesis and growth under high temperatures. We also have genes that allow plants to survive under extreme hot or cold temperatures, when other plants die.

Drought tolerant plant


One of the most important traits in our pipeline is drought tolerance. We can sustain growth on less water, postpone wilting and increase the ability of plants to recover. These traits can also reduce overall water use on irrigated lands.

Traits needed for large-scale production of biofuels

Land Stress tolerance Grow on marginal land
Tons per acre Yield density Lower harvest/transportation cost; more CO2 sequestered
Profit per acre

Nutrient uptake

Lower fertilizer costs and less N2O emissions

Gallons per acre Composition and structure Increase yield of fuel per ton of biomass
Refinery capital and
operational costs
Composition, structure and enzyme production Milder pre-treatment and reduced need for enzymes
Co-products Metabolic engineering & sequestration Enhance overall economics


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