Method to Increase Calorific Content and Enhanced Nutritional Value of Plant Biomass



Production of alternative fuels such as biodiesel is on the rise around the world and in the U.S. due to a strong and growing desire to reduce dependency on petroleum-derived diesel fuel. The acceptance of biodiesel has been slowed due to its higher cost relative to petroleum-derived diesel. The higher cost of biodiesel is directly related to the cost of feedstock used for biodiesel production, which is often derived from crops also used for food. The displacement of food crops by energy crops causes higher food prices and is fueling a rapidly growing social, environmental, economical and political push to move away from food crops for alternative fuel production.


Description of Technology


This technology is plants modified to divert metabolic activity from carbohydrate storage to oil storage in vegetative tissues. Enhancement of TAG synthesis in Arabidopsis is achieved via up-regulation of the TAG biosynthesis pathway and acyltransferase over-expression.  This results in enhanced energy content of plant biomass by up to 6% without any detrimental effects in Arabidopsis. Model experiments indicate that the plant material is an excellent forage, with animals fed the high-TAG material showing increased weight gain. The increased energy density makes the biomass particularly suited for pyrolysis.


Key Benefits

  • Higher energy density in biodiesel feedstock. Increases the capacity of feedstock crops to store oil, meaning more oil can be produced, stored, and harvested per crop acreage
  • Non-food crop uses: Realistic near term concept for use as co-firing in conventional power plants or as pyrolysis feedstock
  • Stackable: compatible with other transgenic crop technologies. Can be coupled with other transgenic crop techs that aim to provide more advantageous feedstock
  • Increased caloric value Increases nutrient intake without increasing volume. Easier digestion in livestock due to decreased surface lipids and waxes



  • Biodiesel crop production
  • Forage crops


Patent Status


Patent pending




Christoph Benning, Sanjaya Sanjaya, Rachel Miller


Tech ID




Learn more about the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) at MSU 


Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University