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University of Georgia academics receive $15.8m for poplar-focused bioenergy research

A multidisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Georgia and two partner institutions have been awarded a $15.8 million (€16m) grant over five years from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to reengineer poplar trees (Populus sp. and hybrids) to be used as a sustainable energy source, reported UGA Today. The grant forms part of a larger $178m (€180.8m) DOE initiative to develop bioenergy technology.

The institution said that researchers will utilise state-of-the-art biotechnology methods to breed the trees as a multi-purpose crop. They will then be implemented for bioenergy, biomaterial and bioproduct alternatives to petroleum-based materials.
“Currently, there is a growing need for sustainable sources of not only biofuels but also bioproducts and plant-based materials. Poplars are among the fastest growing trees in the United States and are important for both carbon sequestration and global carbon cycling,” said Robin Buell, principal investigator on the grant and the GRA Eminent Scholar Chair in Crop Genomics at the Centre for Applied Genetic Technologies in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Five projects will be funded via the UGA grant involving Buell and UGA faculty collaborators . These include Wayne Parrott in the CAES Department of Crop and Soil Sciences; Chung-Jui Tsai and Bob Schmitz in the Department of Genetics; and Breeanna Urbanowicz in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, all in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. External collaborators are Patrick Shih at University of California, Berkeley, and Chris Dardick with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

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