Biotechnology solution for accelerating the development of branches in plants: higher biomass yield
A research team from the Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics (GBGP) at the Technical University of Madrid has developed a biotechnological application of a gene responsible of an accelerated and greater production of branches in ligneous species without showing changes either in their growth characteristics or in the composition and anatomy of their wood.
The challenge facing the global electricity market is managing the issue of carbon emissions with growing nations needing power. Obtaining bioenergy from plants could help to alleviate the effects of global warming and energy safety problems, provided that high yields can be sustained. The possibility of generating trees with a greater biomass by manipulating genes makes transgenic plants preferred candidates for bioenergy production. Biomass is simple and cost effective with some estimations predicting that by 2050, it could provide 50% of the world’s primary energy needs. Biomass combustion technologies are fully mature with high commercial availability and a multitude of options for integration with existing infrastructure at both large and small-scale levels.
The lateral buds of most temperate woody species do not grow out during the season in which they form. These proleptic buds overwinter and grow out during the following spring. However, in poplar and a few other temperate species, as well as many tropical species, some lateral buds grow out sylleptically, that is, they grow out during the same season in which they form without an intervening rest period. Sylleptic branching may increase significantly branch number, leaf area and the general growth of the tree, particularly in its early years.
This solution consists of biotechnological application of the RAV1 gene (Related to ABI3 and Viviparous 1) in relation to their capacity for increasing the degree of development of sylleptic branching in ligneous species. Therefore, this tool can increase the biomass production of a forestry plantation genetically modified in this manner. This application is of great interest in various industrial sectors, such as energy industry or the chemical one.
“Biotechnology applied in perennial plants: inducing branching as a profitable trait to increase biomass yield”
“Power generation from biomass costs about €90 to €100 per MWh, more than the cost of power from cheap fossil fuels with low carbon prices. It is still necessary to make it cost competitive”
Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics– UPM-INIA
Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Area
Centre of Support for Technological Innovation – UPM