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Breakthroughs in Poplar Genomics Improve Bioenergy Feedstock Options

Photo of On the leaf is a normal tree compared to a tree with a chromosomal break that leads to altered wood development and growth habit. On the right is a diagram showing the precise location of the chromosome break. The genes responsible for the wood and growth habit changes reside in this region, and can now be studied in detail. Andrew Groover, USDA Forest ServiceOn the leaf is a normal tree compared to a tree with a chromosomal break that leads to altered wood development and growth habit. On the right is a diagram showing the precise location of the chromosome break. The genes responsible for the wood and growth habit changes reside in this region, and can now be studied in detail. Andrew Groover, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Developing fast growing poplar cultivars for biofuels production is a major step towards renewable, tree-based energy. Optimal properties of short-rotation poplar cultivars grown for biofuels differ from previous timber-based cultivars, presenting a major challenge for tree breeders. Forest Service scientists developed a new process for both identifying genes regulating feedstock properties and for developing new cultivars in a single breeding cycle.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Groover, Andrew T. 
Research Location : Davis, California
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 689

Summary

Biofuels are an important contribution to green energy development that meets the demands of a growing population. Poplars are of particular interest because they are fast growing, they have desirable wood properties, and they can serve as a model for studying the genetic foundation of wood formation. Forest Service scientists recently established a new germplasm resource for hybrid poplars that helps researchers identify the genes and processes that determine biofuels feedstock properties in fast growing poplars. To accomplish this, pollen was treated with irradiation to cause chromosomal breaks, mimicking a natural process by which genetic variation is created in trees. The pollen was then used in controlled crosses to establish several hundred hybrid seedling trees. The genome of each of these trees was sequenced and used to pinpoint the exact location of chromosomal breaks, which can now be used to identify chromosomal regions and genes that influence specific feedstock properties. This new research tool is a promising step towards the goal of being able to rapidly develop cultivars with superior bioenergy feedstock traits.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research
  • UC Davis
  • USDA AFRI