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    Biopact's Laurens Rademakers is interviewed by Mongabay on the risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon storage (BECS) proposals. Even though Biopact remains positive about BECS, because it offers one of the few safe systems to mitigate climate change in a drastic way, care must be take to avoid negative impacts on tropical forests. Mongabay - November 10, 2007.

    According to the latest annual ranking produced by The Scientist, Belgium is the world's best country for academic research, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Belgium's top position is especially relevant for plant, biology, biotechnology and bioenergy research, as these are amongst the science fields on which it scores best. The Scientist - November 8, 2007.

    Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced the acquisition of Celsys BioFuels, Inc. Celsys BioFuels was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Ladisch, an internationally known leader in the field of renewable fuels and cellulosic biofuels. He will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Purdue University to join Mascoma as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Business Wire - November 7, 2007.

    Bemis Company, Inc. announced today that it will partner with Plantic Technologies Limited, an Australian company specializing in starch-based biopolymers, to develop and sell renewably resourced flexible films using patented Plantic technology. Bemis - November 7, 2007.

    Hungary's Kalocsa Hõerõmû Kft is to build a HUF 40 billion (€158.2 million) straw-fired biomass power plant with a maximum capacity of 49.9 megawatts near Kalocsa in southern Hungary. Portfolio Hungary - November 7, 2007.

    Canada's Gemini Corporation has received approval to proceed into the detailed engineering, fabrication and construction phases of a biogas cogeneration facility located in the Lethbridge, Alberta area, the first of its kind whereby biogas production is enhanced through the use of Thermal Hydrolysis technology, a high temperature, high pressure process for the safe destruction of SRM material from the beef industry. The technology enables a facility to redirect waste material, previously shipped to landfills, into a valuable feedstock for the generation of electricity and thermal energy. This eliminates the release of methane into the environment and the resultant solids are approved for use as a land amendment rather than re-entering the waste stream. In addition, it enhances the biogas production process by more than 25%. Market Wire - November 7, 2007.

    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

New public-private hybrid rice group aims to raise rice yields in the tropics

A new international research initiative, linking the private and public sectors for the first time and launched on November 9 at the 2007 Asian Seed Congress, aims to boost the research and development of hybrid rice for the tropics.

The Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC), established by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), will strengthen public-private sector partnership in hybrid rice, a technology that can raise the yield of rice and thus overall rice productivity and profitability in Asia.

The news is important for the bioenergy community, because one of the criteria that need to be met in order to tap the vast theoretical potential for biomass production (previous post), is increased and more efficient food production. Both processes go hand in hand. Rice is the world's most important food crop, grown on approximately 152 million hectares of land (statistics here).

Hybrid rice takes advantage of the phenomenon of hybrid vigor - known as heterosis - to achieve yields 15 to 20% higher than nonhybrid (inbred) varieties. Over the past three decades, the technology has helped China achieve food security, but has not yet reached its potential in the tropics - the place where food production can be vastly improved and where the largest bioenergy potential can be found.
National agricultural research and extension systems and other public sector organizations engaged in hybrid rice research and development will be among the primary beneficiaries of funds generated by the HRDC. Rice farmers in Asia will benefit from accelerated access to hybrid rice-based technologies such as more and better hybrids, good-quality seed, knowledge, and services provided by the private and public sectors. - Dr. Fangming Xie, IRRI senior hybrid rice researcher
IRRI and its partners in the public and private sector have led research on development of, and use of, hybrid rice technology in the tropics for almost 30 years. Successful deployment of hybrid rice in Asia, however, requires more effective cooperation between public research institutions and the private sector in research to overcome current constraints.

The HRDC will be hosted by IRRI and will have three major objectives:
  1. Support research on developing new hybrids with enhanced yield heterosis, improved seed production, multiple resistances to stresses, and grain quality.
  2. Support research on best management practices for rice hybrids.
  3. Improve information sharing, public awareness, and capacity building.
Public and private sector organizations and companies with interest in hybrid rice development are invited to become members of the HRDC. For private-sector members, annual financial contributions under the consortium structure will take into account the status of seed companies at different stages of development. HRDC members will have access to improved parents, hybrids, and breeding lines, including seeds and associated information:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The HRDC will have a public-private sector advisory committee and will meet annually to provide information to its members on new plant genetic resources available or under development, review research on hybrid rice management, discuss new research priorities, and make decisions on other consortium activities such as capacity building for both the public and private sectors.

According to IRRI senior hybrid rice researcher Fangming Xie, the HRDC will significantly enhance the capacity for hybrid rice research and product delivery, while providing services and support to the private sector in its product development and delivery that will benefit the general public.

International Rice Research Institute: New hybrid rice group aims to raise rice yields in the tropics - November 9, 2007.

International Rice Research Institute: At Last, Tropical Hybrids - April 19, 2000.

IRRI / FAO: Adoption of Hybrid Rice in Asia - Policy Support - Proceedings of the workshop on policy support for rapid adoption of hybrid rice on large-scale production in Asia, Hanoi, Viet Nam, 22-23 May 2001, Rome 2002

Biopact: IEA report: bioenergy can meet 20 to 50% of world's future energy demand - September 12, 2007


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