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seed, are being engineered to contain the gene required to produce hydroxyleic acid, thereby yielding the desired ricinoleic acid in an established agronomic crop.
Over the near term the acreage of traditional crops will continue to dwarf that of new crops. In the long-term, alternative crops can make important contributions in the industrial and agricultural sectorsif they can compete in the marketplace with traditional crops. Industrial crops that will be successful will be those with sufficient registered crop protection chemicals, appropriate infrastructure, optimized manufacturing processes and equipment, and byproduct utilization systems.
If appropriate and sufficiently low-cost processing technologies were developed, there is enough unused biomass to satisfy all domestic demand for organic chemicals that can be made from biological resources (approximately 100 million tons per year) and all of the nation's oxygenated fuel requirements (use of oxygenated gasoline) in areas that did not meet the federal ambient air standard for carbon monoxide as mandated by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Production of biobased crops on land presently idled could, given low-cost technologies for converting these crops, provide an additional source of U.S. liquid fuels. A few new crops have received initial scientific and commercial investments, but various factors impede their commercial adoption. Nevertheless, certain nontraditional crops, such as switchgrass and hybrid poplar, are valuable because of their high yields.
Classical plant breeding and genetic engineering techniques will continue to be used by scientists for the development of new crops and improvement of well-established crops. Genetic engineering offers unprecedented opportunities to manipulate the biochemical content of specific plant tissues and design a raw material for easier processingan advantage not enjoyed by fossil feedstocks. However, much more remains to be done to provide the raw materials for expanding biobased industries.
Over the long term, a major research priority is to maintain a commitment to fundamental and applied research in the biology, biochemistry, and genetics of plants and microorganisms. It is necessary to gain an understanding of underlying processes associated with gene expression, growth and development, and chemical metabolism. Improved methods of plant transformation and new promoters that further refine gene expression are needed to hasten the development of crops suitable for biobased industries. A sound scientific base in these fundamental areas will be critical to formulating strategies to supply future raw materials for biobased industries.