Editor’s Note: This occasional series looks at powerful ideas — some existing, some futuristic — for fueling and electrifying modern life.Helping a fungus have sex could lead to better ways of making biofuels, scientists now suggest.To make renewable biofuels, instead of manufacturing them from the sugars in food crops, researchers want to employ organisms that can make use of the hundreds of millions of tons of cellulose in sawdust, weeds and other plant scrap that would otherwise go to waste.One especially promising organism when it comes to breaking down cellulose is the soil fungus Trichoderma reesei. It was originally discovered in the Solomon Islands during World War II eating away at the canvas and garments of the U.S. Army.Improving this fungus was difficult because scientists thought it was asexual, which meant they couldn’t breed different useful strains of it together for offspring better tailored to degrade cellulose.Now researchers in Austria find this fungus isn’t asexual after all. For the first time after its discovery more than 50 years ago, researchers have made it have sex.The group this fungus belongs to, Trichoderma, includes several hundred species, including both sexual and asexual ones. By probing their DNA, investigators uncovered the genes responsible… Read full this story
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