• Publication Date: 04/01/2020
  • Article Type: Back Page
  • Subjects: Industry Issues and Trends
Field trials show that poplar trees, which emit trace amounts of isoprene, can be genetically modified not to harm air quality yet leaving their growth potential unchanged. Surprising study results give reason for optimism in searching for greater environmental sustainability and developing plantation-scale biomass sources that can serve as fossil fuel alternatives.

Trees whose isoprene production was genetically suppressed “did not suffer ill effects in terms of photosynthesis or ‘biomass production.’”They produced cellulose, (used in biofuel production) and grew as well as trees that were not modified. Because isoprene has a protective effect in stressful climates, the results were surprising. “The suppression of isoprene production triggered alternative signaling pathways that appear to compensate for the loss of stress tolerance due to isoprene.” In addition, researchers found that trees were able to adjust to the loss of isoprene because most plantation growth takes place during cooler and wetter times of the year.

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