News › The wind in the willows
25 January 2013
Covered by the BBC Science and Environment News
Scientists at Rothamsted Research, Imperial College London and the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Agronomy Institute (at Orkney College UHI) have discovered that differences in the ease with which sugars can be extracted from willow can be explained by differences in their wood composition in response to conditions that induce growth stress. Growing willow varieties in environments with strong winds can result in changes in the wood which improves their ability to be used as a renewable biomass resource. In a paper published in Biotechnology for Biofuels, the team describe how this finding will help scientists and breeders improve willow as a source of wood for biofuels and other products normally made unsustainably by refining oil. This work forms part of the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC) where it is linked with other programmes aimed at improving the conversion of biomass to fuels.
Willows are grown as energy crops to provide alternative sources of fuel, capture carbon from the atmosphere and fix carbon in the soil. Rothamsted Research holds the National Willow Collection, one of the largest collections of willow in the world and is part of Rothamsted's Cropping Carbon Programme Traditionally grown for basket-making willows are important energy crops because they re-grow quickly after being cut back (or coppiced) with only minimal fertiliser applications; approximately one quarter of that needed for wheat. Willow plantations are also attractive to wildlife and help capture carbon in the soil, which could reduce greenhouse gasses and help combat climate change.
Publication› Reaction wood -- a key cause of variation in cell wall recalcitrance in willow (10.1186/1754-6834-5-83)
Related links› The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC): Perennial Bioenergy Crops Programme
› Rothamsted's Cropping Carbon Programme
Contacts› Angela Karp
› Peter Martin (01856 569298) email@example.com
Notes to EditorsThe Agronomy Institute at Orkney College UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands provides a research facility for the development of plants and plant-based products, focusing particularly on the Highlands, Western Isles and Northern Isles. The institute has a wide portfolio of research covering: cereals; biomass for fuel crops; plants for high value extracts; fruits and berries; and biodiversity.
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