Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy

Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy
SEED FUND 2.0 project iBiomass

Improve maize biomass for processing applying OrganoCat technology

Increasing the efficiency of utilizing sustainable, carbon-neutral, non-food plant materials such as agricultural residues for the production of commodity chemicals is a major goal for a commercially competitive bioeconomy. Plant lignocellulosic material represents ~1/3rd of crop biomass, but is recalcitrant to breakdown into its sugars for valorisation. Therefore, maize mutant lines with optimized lignocellulosic composition were generated. However, such changes might reduce disease resistance, since the cell wall is the first physical barrier against pathogen attack. To address this important aspect, in iBiomass we use smut fungal pathogens and infect these optimized lines. We combine the expertise of microbiologists, plant biologists and chemists to not only score disease symptoms and rank the maize lines according to resistance, but also feed the infected plant biomass into the OrganoCat process. Ultimately, this enables us to evaluate pathogen resistance of optimized plant lines taking an integrated view
ranging from susceptibility of the plant during growth all the way to processing of the lignocellulosic biomass. 

What is the relevance and the impact for the Bioeconomy?

The National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030 (BMBF) suggests in its key measures for sustainable agricultural production of plant biomass to optimize plant raw materials that are not used as food or feed for downstream processing. An important bio-economy plant is maize. While the top producer word-wide is still the USA, Germany produces 9.5 MT maize for silage and 4.5 MT grains every year on 2.5 million ha (www. Silage maize is used in biogas production, and corn stover, a reside of grain maize cultivation, is an important raw material in the production of bioethanol (Poet + DSM, Emmetsburg, IA). However, production and quality of maize lignocellulose is reduced by infection with pathogens. Aligning with the key measures of the NRSB2030, the iBiomass focusses on optimising maize biomass by evaluating the susceptibility of lines optimized for lignocellulosic composition to smut infection integrating the impact of infection on the OrganoCat process as a benchmark. This innovative technology is currently optimized in the BioSC focus lab AP3. Evaluation of infected plant biomass in
pulping is a novel feature of this seed fund, which would not only add directly to the technology development and thereby contribute to “Integrated biorefineries for sustainable production and processing”, but also feed into “Smart management of plant performance” by providing a selection pipeline for maize lines. Since both the OrganoCat technology and the maize lines are already patented, this gives us a head-start in using this renewable biomass in such an innovative bio-based process and hence become a global technology leader.


SEED FUND 2.0 Coordinator

Dr. V. Göhre
CG M. Feldbrügge
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
phone: +49 211 8111529



Dr. V. Ramirez; CG M. Pauly, Plant Cell Biology and Bioechnology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Prof. W. Leitner, Technical Chemistry and Petrochemistry, RWTH Aachen University


Funding period

01.11.2018 - 31.10.2019



The total budget of iBiomass is 66,830 €. iBiomass is is part of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC and thus funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.