Climate change: Aberystwyth elephant grass research could help unlock greener energy
Researchers in Wales have helped unlock the DNA of a plant that could have a key role in fighting climate change.
The scientists from Aberystwyth University were part of a global team to sequence the genome of miscanthus, known as elephant grass.
Native to Africa and South Asia, it grows up to 10ft (3m) and can be used as biomass to generate electricity.
Unlocking the genome means varieties better suited to other climates and uses can be developed more quickly.
This could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.
Currently only one hybrid type of miscanthus is grown and used in the UK for combustion for low-carbon electricity generation.
But the versatile plant could replace fossil fuels in many other applications, including in home insulation and the manufacture of vehicles.
'Secrets of the genome'
Kerrie Farrar, a member of the research team from Aberystwyth University, said they were very excited to finally have the miscanthus genome.
"It's a very large grass, and the genome is also very large and complex so it's been a long time coming and a big collaborative effort to sequence the genome," she said.
"Unlocking the secrets of the genome means that we can accelerate the development of new varieties with enhanced productivity that will contribute to tackling climate change."
The team have been forced to minimise their celebrations because of the pandemic.
"There might have been a better celebration if it hadn't been for Covid," said Dr Farrar.
"Usually we all get together in January in a big conference in San Diego, but that won't be happening, so unfortunately the timing for celebration isn't ideal, but we're all happy anyway."