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Towards understanding the microbial ecology of alcoholic fermentations in sugarcane biorefineries

Abstract

Fuel ethanol production from sugarcane is a well established business in Brazil, contributing to the national economy and to global sustainability. The ethanol yield on sugars is the key process indicator in the ~400 active sugarcane biorefineries and has been stable for some decades. Breakthrough technologies are required to push this indicator to higher levels and for this, a deeper knowledge on some crucial process aspects are needed, for instance on how the microbial dynamics varies among different industrial units and how it relates to process and climate conditions. In the current project proposal, we aim at obtaining a detailed description of how the microbiome varies in three different industrial units, along two entire production seasons, and how these dynamics correlate with feedstock, process and climate fluctuations. For this purpose, we will use a combination of metabarcoding, metagenomics, bioinformatics and process supervision, so that we can try to understand how the microbiome is shaped and how it correlates with the final ethanol yield on sugars. Samples will be collected directly from biorefineries, their total DNA will be extracted, and different sequencing strategies will be applied. Data analysis includes an up-to-date bioinformatics pipeline and statistical tools. We expect the results will provide novel information on the microbiome of this important industrial process and also help industries in designing novel ways of starting and conducting their processes in the future, so that more ethanol can be generated per hectare of planted sugarcane, contributing to the Brazilian economy and to tackle global climate change. (AU)

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