Biotech Updates

Researchers Create Tree for Faster Growth and Biofuels Conversion

March 25, 2015

Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) have discovered that manipulating a specific gene in a hardwood tree species significantly increases growth and makes it easier to break down the wood into fuel. The team described how decreasing the expression of the gene GAUT12.1 leads to a reduction in xylan and pectin, two major components of plant cell walls that make them resistant to the enzymes and chemicals used to extract the fermentable sugars used to create biofuels.

They used the eastern cottonwood species (Populus deltoides) to create transgenic trees in which GAUT12.1 was reduced by approximately 50 percent. The trees they tested showed 12-52 percent increased plant height and 12-44 percent larger stem diameter when compared to controls.

Faster growing plants would yield more biomass over a shorter period of time, making them more attractive to both growers and the biofuel industry, said Debra Mohnen, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the study.

For more information, read the news release at the UGA website.