Pine trees hold out hope for biofuels; research underway

Take a walk down your street, or almost any street in America. What you will find are "stick-built" houses made mostly from softwoods. An important softwood is the pine tree, which is very commonly used in construction. The reason pine is often selected is because it grows very quickly and grows well in many areas. The needles also tend to keep other types of trees and vegetation from sprouting up, which works well in the plantations where the trees are grown and harvested. Many of these same attributes are being looked at for producing biofuels. As cellulosic biofuels are being developed, it is also important to consider where to get the biomass from, which is why an in-depth study of the conifer tree is being undertaken. Researchers plan to to sequence and catalog conifer genes so that they can pick out the woods which are best suited for particular purposes, including biofuels. According to Jeffrey Dean, professor of forest biotechnology in the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, "Loblolly pine is a primary target for this research project because of its current commercial importance in the southeastern United States, as well as its potential for providing biomass to future biofuels markets." Later, other species such as the coastal redwood will be added. Which will come first, the technology to cheaply create the cellulosic biofuels or the finding of the perfect biomass source?

[Source: University of Georgia]

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