“Semi-Dwarf” Trees May Enable a Green Revolution for Some Forest Crops
(Oregon State University) The same “green revolution” concepts that have revolutionized crop agriculture and helped to feed billions of people around the world may now offer similar potential in forestry, scientists say, with benefits for wood, biomass production, drought stress and even greenhouse gas mitigation.
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. READ MORE and MORE (Ethanol Producer Magazine) Abstract