DENVER — Panda poop contains bacteria with potent effects in
breaking down plant material in the way needed to tap biomass as a major new
source of “biofuels” produced not from corn and other food sources, but from
grass, wood chips and crop wastes, scientists reported at the 242nd
National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
“Who would have guessed that ‘panda poop’ might help solve
one of the major hurdles to producing biofuels, which is optimizing the
breakdown of the raw plant materials used to make the fuels?” said study
co-author Ashli Brown, Ph.D. “We hope our research will help expand the use of biofuels
in the future and help cut dependency on foreign oil. We also hope it will
reinforce the importance of wildlife conservation.”
Brown pointed out that bacteria from the giant panda are
particularly promising for breaking down the super-tough plant material known
as lignocellulose in switch grass, corn stalks and wood chips.
advance could speed the development of so-called cellulosic biofuels made from
these tough plant materials in a way that doesn’t rely on precious food crops
such as corn, soybeans and sugar now used for making biofuels, she noted.