The overall objective of ENERGYPOPLAR is to design new poplar trees with enhanced agronomical traits for industrial production of bioethanol.
In order to use poplar as a bioenergy short rotation coppice crop, suitable for large-scale deployment in Europe in areas unlikely to be used for food agricultural production, ENERGYPOPLAR will :
- Provide a better understanding of fundamental mechanisms determining optimised yield in Populus – identifying several important transcription factor and other candidate genes regulating yield, including nutrient uptake, in bioenergy poplar
- Understand mechanisms that regulate the synthesis of cell wall polysaccharides – improve cellulose content and alter lignin content and quality for improved saccharification
- Provide a better understanding of lignocellulosic quality and in particular the genetic and genomic basis of ‘high cellulose’ trees linked to alterations in the quality and quantity of lignin
- Develop high thoughput, cross-validated assays for lignocellulosic quality using Fourier Transform Infra Red spectroscopy (FTIR) and Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and lignocellulose saccharification potential
- Establish a platform for rapid gene discovery and testing using systems biology approaches to identify novel transcripts for traits of interest
- Bring the approaches identified in (1) – (5) together to develop a delivery pipeline for improved genotypes for ENERGYPOPLAR trees, with traits of interest and to begin the process of commercialisation
- Establish tools for environmental sustainability assessments of SRC Populus growing systems with respect to soil microbial diversity, GHG mitigation, water and other inputs relevant to a changing climate
- Disseminate the results and transfer technology to the energy industry, land-based sector and to appropriate policy makers
To achieve its goals, ENERGYPOPLAR will integrate an ambitious multidisciplinary approach (molecular, cellular, organismal, and community). In a coordinated and collaborative manner, it will leverage the efforts and resources developed at the international level in poplar development for biofuel production.