Normally, sugar cane only grows in southern countries. At a temperature of less than 10 degrees Celsius the photosynthesis and therefore the growth come to a halt. By crossbreeding the sugar cane with cold-tolerant Miscanthus species, the scientists believe it will become more resistant to low temperatures.
Cold tolerant Miscanthus is already grown in the midwest of the US. It is obtained by crossbreeding the standard strain Miscanthus x giganteus (Elephant grass) with the Miscanthus sacchariflorus from Siberia. On the website Bioenergy Insight, research leader Charles Pignon says that cold-tolerant Miscanthus clones produce 59% more biomass than maize, because it gets healthy leaves early in the spring, which remain intact until late in the fall.
Incidentally, it will take some time before cold-resistant sugar cane varieties will be on the market, because the cultivation cycle from the crossbreeding, through testing, to cultivar release takes 9 to 12 years. It is also still uncertain to what extent sugar cane can adopt the genetic low-temperature photosynthesis properties of Miscanthus.