Forestry investment – The US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy have agreed to invest £643,000 in helping the University of Florida to do more research on a wood gene that has been found.
The gene is thought to have the capability to regulate wood growth and, in turn, the composition of wood fibre, which could make the production of ethanol for biofuels more efficient. It could also help to improve tree varieties used for the production of pulp and paper.
The Unverisity of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture research team has received the grant as part of the 2009 Plant Feedstock Genomics Bioenergy grant system, which offers grants totalling £6.32 million.
The team hopes to develop genetically engineered trees, with one set that is overexposed to the gene, and one that is underexposed to evaluate the impact on biomass growth and the composition of the wood.
It is thought that the gene, known as cpg13, affects the amount of carbon used by a tree to make lignin and cellulose, which are the main building blocks of a tree. Trees with higher cellulose content are more desirable for making biofuels and are also better for manufacturing paper from tree pulp.