Crop Biotech Update

Research Team Finds Gene that Improves Plant Growth and Conversion to Biofuels

February 21, 2018

A research team led by the University of Georgia has discovered that manipulation of a gene found in poplar trees and switchgrass produces plants that grow better and are more efficiently converted to biofuels. The researchers report that reducing the activity of the GAUT4 gene leads to lower levels of pectin, a component of plant cell walls responsible for their resistance to deconstruction.

The team from six institutions led by Debra Mohnen, a member of UGA's Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology found that reducing the expression of GAUT4 in poplar and switchgrass led to a 70 percent reduction in pectin content and produced a 15 percent increase in sugar release. The increase in yield and sugar release bodes well for creating biofuels. Unexpectedly, it also led to increased growth of both plant species, which is an added benefit.

For more, read UGA Today.