WASHINGTON — A deep green fungus best known for eating through uniforms and canvas tents during World War Two might provide a more efficient way to make biofuels such as ethanol, researchers reported on Monday. They sequenced the complete genome of Trichoderma reesei and found important clues about how it breaks down plant fibers into the simple sugars needed to make plant based fuel.
While its appetite for cotton and other fibrous plants caused trouble for troops in the South Pacific, the fungus might provide a way to use switchgrass and other nonfood plants to make biofuels, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology. One barrier to using nonfood plants to make biofuels has been the difficulty in converting them into suger. Food crops such as corn more readily convert. “Our analysis, coupled with the genome sequence data, provides a road map for constructing enhanced T. reesei strains for industrial applications such as biofuel production,” Diego Martinez of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and colleagues wrote.