Poplar trees could get more popular if they prove to be the next big ethanol feedstock.
A team of researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Bowie State University is working on ways to use the hybrid trees to make ethanol and other biofuels, since they could be grown on plantations and harvested without affecting existing woodlands. Poplar, which is also known as cottonwood or aspen, is already commonly cultivated for the production of paper and timber.
The study is funded by a $3.2 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s Plant Genome Research Project, which supports research on plants seen as having economic and agricultural importance. Using the recently completed poplar genome, the researchers are focusing on ways to improve the tree’s nitrogen processing capability, which will enhance its growth rate and feasibility for use in fuel production.