Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The first tree genome is published: Poplar holds promise as renewable bioenergy resource

18.09.2006
Wood from a common tree may one day factor prominently in meeting transportation fuel needs, according to scientists whose research on the fast-growing poplar tree is featured on the cover of tomorrow's edition of the journal Science.

The article, highlighting the analysis of the first complete DNA sequence of a tree, the black cottonwood or Populus trichocarpa, lays the groundwork that may lead to the development of trees as an ideal "feedstock" for a new generation of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol. The research is the result of a four-year scientific and technical effort, led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), uniting the efforts of 34 institutions from around the world, including the University of British Columbia, and Genome Canada; Umeå University, Sweden; and Ghent University, Belgium.

"Biofuels could provide a major answer to our energy needs by giving the United States a homegrown, environmentally friendlier alternative to imported oil," said DOE's Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach. "Fine-tuning plants for biofuels production is one of the keys to making biofuels economically viable and cost-effective. This research, employing the latest genomic technologies, is an important step on the road to developing practical, biologically-based substitutes for gasoline and other fossil fuels."

"Biofuels are not only attractive for their potential to cut reliance on oil imports but also their reduced environmental impact," said Dr. Gerald A. Tuskan, ORNL and DOE JGI researcher and lead author of the SCIENCE study.

... more about:
»Biofuels »DOE »Genom »Genome »TREE »sequenced

"Biofuels emit fewer pollutants than fossil fuels such as gasoline. In addition, poplar and related plants are vital managers of atmospheric carbon. Trees store captured carbon dioxide in their leaves, branches, stems, and roots. This natural process provides opportunities to improve carbon removal from the air by producing trees that effectively shuttle and store more carbon below ground in their roots and the soil. Moreover, bioenergy crops re-absorb carbon dioxide emitted when biofuels are consumed, creating a cycle that is essentially carbon neutral."

Poplar's extraordinarily rapid growth, and its relatively compact genome size of 480 million nucleotide units, 40 times smaller than the genome of pine, are among the many features that led researchers to target poplar as a model crop for biofuels production.

"Under optimal conditions, poplars can add a dozen feet of growth each year and reach maturity in as few as four years, permitting selective breeding for large-scale sustainable plantation forestry," said Dr. Sam Foster of the U.S. Forest Service. "This rapid growth coupled with conversion of the lignocellulosic portion of the plant to ethanol has the potential to provide a renewable energy resource along with a reduction of greenhouse gases."

"The challenge of global warming requires global solutions," said Martin Godbout, President, Genome Canada. "The international consortium that successfully sequenced the poplar genome provides a model for great minds working together and serves as an example of how discovery science can be applied to current environmental problems facing humanity."

Among the major discoveries yielded from the poplar project is the identification of over 45,000 protein-coding genes, more than any other organism sequenced to date, approximately twice as many as present in the human genome (which has a genome six times larger than the poplar's). The research team identified 93 genes associated with the production of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, the building blocks of plant cell walls. The biopolymers cellulose and hemicellulose constitute the most abundant organic materials on earth, which by enzymatic action, can be broken down into sugars that in turn can be fermented into alcohol and distilled to yield fuel-quality ethanol and other liquid fuels.

Poplar is the most complex genome to be sequenced and assembled by a single public sequencing facility and only the third plant to date to have its genome completely sequenced and published. The first, back in 2000, was the tiny weed, Arabidopsis thaliana, an important model for plant genetics. Rice was the second, two years ago. Populus trichocarpa is one of the tallest broadleaf hardwood trees in the western U.S., native to the Pacific coast from San Diego to Alaska. The sequenced DNA was isolated from a specimen collected along the banks of the Nisqually river in Washington State.

The poplar project supports a broader DOE drive to accelerate research into biofuels production, under the Bush Administration's Advanced Energy Initiative. In August, the department announced it would spend $250 million over five years to establish and operate two new Bioenergy Research Centers. The DOE-supported research into biofuels is focusing on both plants and microbes, in an effort to discover new biotechnology-based methods of producing fuels from plant matter (biomass) cost-effectively.

Earlier this year DOE published a study summarizing the views of over fifty leading scientists in the field of biofuels research that expressed optimism about the prospects for finding cost-effective methods to produce fuels such as ethanol from cellulose in the not-too-distant future (Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol, available at http://genomicsgtl.energy.gov/biofuels/b2bworkshop.shtml). Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman has set a departmental goal of replacing 30 percent of current transportation fuel demand with biofuels by 2030.

DOE scientists envision a future where vast poplar farms in regions such as the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest, and portions of the southeastern U.S. could provide a steady supply of tree biomass rich in cellulose that can be transformed by specialized biorefineries into fuels like ethanol. Other regions of the country might specialize in different "energy crops" suited to their particular climate and soil conditions, including such plants as switchgrass and willow. In addition, a large quantity of biofuels might be produced from agricultural and forestry waste.

David Gilbert | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.llnl.gov
http://genomicsgtl.energy.gov/biofuels/b2bworkshop.shtml
http://www.jgi.doe.gov

Further reports about: Biofuels DOE Genom Genome TREE sequenced

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Small but ver­sat­ile; key play­ers in the mar­ine ni­tro­gen cycle can util­ize cy­anate and urea
10.12.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Carnegie Mellon researchers probe hydrogen bonds using new technique
10.12.2018 | Carnegie Mellon University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

Im Focus: Three components on one chip

Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.

Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...

Im Focus: Substitute for rare earth metal oxides

New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals

Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.

Im Focus: A bit of a stretch... material that thickens as it's pulled

Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.

Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...

Im Focus: The force of the vacuum

Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.

The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

Expert Panel on the Future of HPC in Engineering

03.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Small but ver­sat­ile; key play­ers in the mar­ine ni­tro­gen cycle can util­ize cy­anate and urea

10.12.2018 | Life Sciences

New method gives microscope a boost in resolution

10.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Carnegie Mellon researchers probe hydrogen bonds using new technique

10.12.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>