• Open Access

PHA Bioplastics, Biochemicals, and Energy from Crops


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Large scale production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) in plants can provide a sustainable supply of bioplastics, biochemicals, and energy from sunlight and atmospheric CO2. PHAs are a class of polymers with various chain lengths that are naturally produced by some microorganisms as storage materials. The properties of these polyesters make them functionally equivalent to many of the petroleum-based plastics that are currently in the market place. However, unlike most petroleum-derived plastics, PHAs can be produced from renewable feedstocks and easily degrade in most biologically active environments. This review highlights research efforts over the last 20 years to engineer the production of PHAs in plants with a focus on polyhydroxybutryrate (PHB) production in bioenergy crops with C4 photosynthesis. PHB has the potential to be a high volume commercial product with uses not only in the plastics and materials markets, but also in renewable chemicals and feed. The major challenges of improving product yield and plant fitness in high biomass yielding C4 crops are discussed in detail.