Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. and Novozymes, the world’s largest enzyme provider, are collaborating to co-develop customized plant varieties and enzyme cocktails for cellulosic biofuel production.

The companies expect to improve the biomass-to-fuel conversion process through more effective enzymes and higher-quality energy crops, leading to greater fuel yields and lower capital and operating costs, according to a Ceres press release.

“This is an example of how technology providers from different parts of the value chain are coming together to make cellulosic biofuel a commercial reality,” says Cynthia Bryant, Novozymes global biomass business development manager. “Energy crops have an important role to play in the world’s future sustainable energy mix. According to the Billion Ton Study by the U.S. Department of Energy, one third of the total sustainably collected biomass potential from agricultural resources can come from perennial crops.”

Switchgrass, miscanthus and sorghum, high-yielding crops planted specifically for their energy content, thrive with less water and fertilizer than other crops. They often also grow on marginal lands where other crops cannot.

Ceres and Novozymes will initially work to determine the best enzyme cocktails for the biorefining of Ceres’ commercial switchgrass seed products. The partners will also begin similar evaluations of sweet sorghum, and Ceres’ researchers plan to develop customized plant varieties that can be degraded more easily by Novozymes’ enzymes. Enzymes can convert the biomass from energy crops into sugar that can then be used to produce biofuel and other bio-products.