Researchers at Oregon State University recently outlined the latest findings on reduced height growth in trees through genetic modification, and concluded that several advantageous growth traits could be achieved for short-rotation forestry, bioenergy, or more efficient water use in a drier, future climate.
This approach runs contrary to conventional wisdom and centuries of tree breeding, which tried to produce forest trees that grow larger and taller, the researchers note. But just as the green revolution in agriculture helped crops such as wheat and rice produce more food on smaller, sturdier plants, the opportunities in forestry could be significant.
“Research now makes it clear that genetic modification of height growth is achievable,” said Steven Strauss, an OSU professor of forest genetics. “We understand the genes and hormones that control growth not only in crop plants, but also in trees. They are largely the same.”
In a study published in Plant Physiology, researchers inserted a number of genes into poplar trees, a species often used for genetic experiments, and valuable for wood, environmental and energy purposes. They described 29 genetic traits that were affected, including growth rate, biomass production, branching, water-use efficiency, and root structure. All of the changes were from modified gibberellins, plant hormones that influence several aspects of growth and development.
The range and variation in genetic modification can be accurately observed and selected for, based on hormone and gene expression levels, to allow production of trees of almost any height.
For example, for ornamental purposes it would be possible to grow a miniature poplar, or even a Douglas-fir, as a potted plant.
And because height growth, in competition for sunlight, is a primary mechanism that trees use to compete for survival, there would be reduced concern about use of such genetically modified trees in a natural environment. On a long-term basis they would be unable to compete, shaded by larger trees and ultimately they would die out.
Scientists could also produce trees that might have a larger root mass, which should make them more drought-resistant, increase water use efficiency, increase elimination of soil toxins and better sequester carbon. This could be useful for greenhouse gas mitigation, bioremediation or erosion control.
Smaller trees could also be selected that have sturdier trunks for some uses in short-rotation plantation forestry, significantly reducing the number of trees blown down by wind. And shorter, thicker and straighter trunks might create higher-value wood products in many tree species, Strauss said.
Some semi-dwarf trees produced by conventional tree breeding techniques are already an important part of the horticulture industry, allowing easier harvesting of fruit and higher yields. Genetic modification could add new characteristics and more scientific precision to the process, researchers said.
“The main limitation is the onerous regulatory structure for genetically-modified plants in the United States,” Strauss said. “Even short, safe and beneficial trees are unlikely to be able to bear the high costs and red tape inherent to obtaining regulatory approval.”
This research has been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, and industry members of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at OSU.Steven Strauss
Steven Strauss | Newswise Science News
Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli
26.04.2017 | University of the Basque Country
New data unearths pesticide peril in beehives
21.04.2017 | Cornell University
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences