Variation in the chemical composition of wheat straw: the role of tissue ratio and composition

Samuel Ra Collins, Nikolaus Wellner, Isabel Martinez Bordonado, Andrea L Harper, Charlotte N Miller, Ian Bancroft, Keith W Waldron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Wheat straw is an attractive substrate for second generation ethanol production because it will complement and augment wheat production rather than competing with food production. However, like other sources of lignocellulosic biomass, even from a single species, it is heterogeneous in nature due to the different tissues and cell types, and this has implications for saccharification efficiency. The aim of this study has been to use Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and Partial least squares (PLS) modelling to rapidly screen wheat cultivars for the levels of component tissues, the carbohydrate composition and lignin content, and the levels of simple cross-linking phenolics such as ferulic and diferulic acids.

RESULTS: FTIR spectroscopy and PLS modelling was used to analyze the tissue and chemical composition of wheat straw biomass. Predictive models were developed to evaluate the variability in the concentrations of the cell wall sugars, cell wall phenolics and acid-insoluble lignin. Models for the main sugars, phenolics and lignin were validated and then used to evaluate the variation in total biomass composition across 90 cultivars of wheat grown over two seasons.

CONCLUSIONS: Whilst carbohydrate and lignin components varied across the varieties, this mainly reflected differences in the ratios of the component tissues rather than differences in the composition of those tissues. Further analysis indicated that on a mol% basis, relative levels of sugars within the tissues varied to only a small degree. There were no clear associations between simple phenolics and tissues. The results provide a basis for improving biomass quality for biofuels production through selection of cultivars with appropriate tissue ratios.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalBiotechnology for biofuels
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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