Suppressing a gene involved in the stiffening of grass cell walls can make it easier to produce ethanol fuel from plant biomass, according to research, announced last week.

A team of researchers from the UK, Brazil and the US has discovered that suppression of a specific gene increases the release of sugars by up to 60%, Rothamsted Research said.

Reducing cell wall stiffening makes grass crops more digestible, which could provide better foraging for livestock and give the biofuel industry biomass that requires fewer artificial enzymes to process it, the researchers say.

The study is seen as a boon for Brazil, whose bioenergy industry makes ethanol from sugarcane and from non-food leftovers of other grass crops such as maize stover.  

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