Corn stover is regarded as the prime candidate feedstock material forcommercial biomass conversion in the United States. Variations in chemical composition of Zea mays cell walls can obviously affect biomass conversion process yields and economics. Mutant lines were constructed by activating a Mu transposon system. The cell wall chemical composition of 48 mutant families was characterized using near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy. NIR data were analyzed using a multivariate statistical analysis technique called Principal Component Analysis (PCA). PCA of the NIR data from 349 maize leaf samples reveals 57 individuals as outliers on one or more of six Principal Components (PCs) at the 95% confidence interval. Of these, 19 individuals from 16 families are outliers on either PC3 (9% of the variation) or PC6 (1% of the variation), the two PCs that contain information about cell wall polymers. Those individuals for which altered cell wall chemistry is confirmed with wet chemical analysis will then be subjected to fermentation analysis to determine whether or not biomass conversion process kinetics, yields and/or economics are significantly affected. Those mutants that provide indications for a decrease in process cost will be pursued further to identify the gene(s) responsible for the observed changes in cell wall composition and associated changes in process economics. These geneswill eventually be incorporated into maize breeding programs directed at the development of a truly dual use crop.
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