Light to liquid fuel: theoretical and realized energy conversion efficiency of plants using Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) in arid conditions

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There has been little attention paid to Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) as a mechanism for bioenergy crop tolerance to water limitation, in part, because potential yields of CAM plants have been assumed to be lower than those of most commonly studied bioenergy crops. The photochemical efficiency, water-use efficiency (WUE), biomass production, and fuel yield potentials of CAM, C3, and C4 plants that are considered or already in use for bioenergy are reviewed here. The theoretical photosynthetic efficiency of CAM plants can be similar to or greater than other photosynthetic pathways. In arid conditions, the greater WUE of CAM species results in theoretical biomass yield potentials that are 147% greater than C4 species. The realized yields of CAM plants are similar to the theoretical yields that account for water-limiting conditions. CAM plants can potentially be viable commercial bioenergy crops, but additional direct yield measurements from field trials of CAM species are still needed.

Theoretical energy yields from CAM plants in dry climates are greater than theoretical energy yields from C4 and C3 plants cultivated in wet climates.

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