St. Louis Public Radio News
6:17 pm
Fri June 12, 2009

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center partners with private company

St. Louis, MO –

For the first time, the non-profit Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis is planning a joint venture with a private company. It's called Agrius BioForms.

The goal of the partnership with GeoSynFuels is to produce large amounts of enzymes in plants like soybeans. Enzymes break down biomass like switchgrass to turn it into biofuel.

Eliot Herman is a researcher who is working on the project. He said enzymes cost a lot to produce because they're made in factories, but growing mass amounts of them in soybeans could lower prices.

"All this is again about trying to reduce the cost to make biofuels work by making it cheaper. So the more we can produce and the smaller amount of mass, the smaller acerage, the lower the cost is."

Roger Beachy, the president of the Plant Science Center, said growing enzymes in soybeans could eventually provide Missouri farmers with an additional source of income.

"It's not that far out of line to think that these local producers will be the ones that produce the cheap ethanol using cheap enzymes."

Testing could take several years.