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Crop Biotech Update

US Gov't Funds Research on Shrub Willow as Biofuel Potential

August 3, 2012

As part of a $41 million investment by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in research to improve efficiency and innovation in biofuel production and feedstocks, a research project to take advantage of the recently mapped shrub willow genome will be conducted by scientists from Cornell University and J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Maryland.

Larry Smart, Cornell's associate professor of horticulture has partnered with Christopher D. Town, professor at JCVI to study the genetics of superior growth in hybrids of shrub willow, a fast-growing, perennial cool-climate woody plant. Specifically, the researchers will examine gene expression patterns in shrub willow species hybrid.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets estimates that there are more than 1 million acres of poorly drained and otherwise underutilized land in New York alone. Using this land to grow shrub willow could create a new regional cash crop. Unlike corn or sugarcane, shrub willow does not require more fertile soil used for the production of fruit, vegetables or livestock feed. It also needs less fertilizer and other inputs to thrive.

 View Cornell University's news release at