“The crops that we have at the moment were developed for food production, not for the biobased economy,” Trindade tells Seed World. “I perceive plants as a factory of ingredients such as proteins, sugars and oils. These components can be used to manufacture products if there is sufficient societal demand.”
Trindade’s team has already developed hemp varieties that have improved properties for producing fibers for jeans and other textiles. “There still is some way to go,” Trindade says. “We need to increase the yield, and the extraction of the fibers should be made easier.”
Her team is also working with miscanthus, an East Asian grass that can be used as an energy crop and in the production of paper and bioplastics, and with food crops like tomatoes and cucumbers for producing fibers and other bioactive substances, such as natural pesticides.
“We need to combine the various perspectives of plant physiology, genetics, conversion technology and consumer preferences in the biobased economy,” she adds.