Crop Biotech Update

Coppicing Response Gene in Biomass Willow Identified

January 15, 2014

Rothamsted Research scientists, in collaboration with researchers from the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have discovered a gene that contributes to the coppicing response of willows. Willows (Salix spp.) are of commercial importance as they provide renewable and sustainable biomass for bioenergy. They grow fast, produce high yields with low fertilizer inputs and easily re-grow after being coppiced (cut back to their base). Coppicing response is of fundamental importance as it enables willows to be grown in three year harvesting cycles, affects vigor and yield, stem and crown architecture and the ratio of bark to wood in the stem.

Despite its importance, the genetic regulation of coppicing response is little understood. The team used knowledge and methodologies from the model plant species Arabidopsis to identify SxMAX4 as the first coppicing response gene known to date. The study is published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal.

See Rothamsted Research's news release at http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/news/branching-out-model-plants-coppiced-trees.