Best known for being an integral part of the koala diet, eucalyptus trees might soon have another very important role to play: a sustainable biofuel and biomaterials production source. The new role is suggested by a study in Nature, which outlines the results of an international effort to sequence and analyze the 640 million base pair genome of Eucalyptus grandis.
A New Biofuel Source
What exactly is the point of sequencing the base pair genome of E. grandis? Researchers believe that if successful, their data could help scientists harness eucalyptus trees as a stable, year-round source of biomass that remains completely separate from food crops, eliminating the possibility of any form of competition between them.
Although eucalyptus trees are native to Australia, they are planted all over the world – as of now, they can be found in approximately 100 countries across six continents and take up over 40 million acres of land. Their wide geographic reach, in combination with their energy-rich cellulosic biomass, makes them a top candidate for a biofuel source.
There are over 700 species of eucalyptus trees in the world, all of which contain an extremely high level of genetic diversity. With over 36,000 genes – twice as many as the human genome – they are a major terrestrial source of carbon due to the fact that they are constantly capturing and storing carbon dioxide in their limbs. In the “Nature” study, the researchers focused on the specific genes in eucalyptus trees that are connected to the creation of their secondary cell walls, which are made up of materials that can be used for the production of pulp, paper, biomaterials, and bioenergy.
Only once scientists can better understand what genes give these trees their unique fuel properties can we harness them for biofuel in the most efficient and effective manner possible. In the recent study, the team managed to pinpoint the genes integral to the final steps in the production of cellulose and hemicellulose xylan, two cell wall carbohydrates that can be used in the creation of biofuel.
At Ecoforests, we focus on forestry management efforts that are socially conscious and beneficially for the environment, and sustainable forestry investment. A big factor in maintaining this focus is using sustainable energy sources and in order to achieve this, a thorough understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of wood plant growth and adaptation is essential. Data from studies that focus on these issues will help reveal new plants ideal for biomass production and in turn help us provide our clients with the best possible options for sustainable, eco-friendly investments.
Understanding the history and genetics of trees such as the eucalyptus is essential in the development of new sources of sustainable biofuel and biomaterials. Advancements in this field not only help our understanding of these plants for scientific purposes, but also for the creation of green investments that benefit both people and the environment. For more information on eucalyptus investments, or if you’re looking to invest in sustainable energy sources, give us a call today at 1.855.876.3775 and we can help you take the next step.