J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2011, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (2): 151-165.DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7909.2010.01015.x

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Genetic Improvement of Willow for Bioenergy and Biofuels

Angela Karp*, Steve J. Hanley, Sviatlana O. Trybush, William Macalpine, Ming Pei and Ian Shield   

  1. Centre for Bioenergy and Climate Change, Plant and Invertebrate Ecology Department, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ UK
  • Received:2010-09-23 Accepted:2010-11-23 Published:2011-02-01
  • About author:
    *Corresponding author Tel: +44 1582 763133; Fax: +44 1582 760981; E-mail: angela.karp@bbsrc.ac.uk
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Willows (Salix spp.) are a very diverse group of catkin-bearing trees and shrubs that are widely distributed across temperate regions of the globe. Some species respond well to being grown in short rotation coppice (SRC) cycles, which are much shorter than conventional forestry. Coppicing reinvigorates growth and the biomass rapidly accumulated can be used as a source of renewable carbon for bioenergy and biofuels. As SRC willows re-distribute nutrients during the perennial cycle they require only minimal nitrogen fertilizer for growth. This results in fuel chains with potentially high greenhouse gas reductions. To exploit their potential for renewable energy, willows need to be kept free of pests and diseases and yields need to be improved without significantly increasing the requirements for fertilizers and water. The biomass composition needs to be optimized for different end-uses. Yields also need to be sustainable on land less productive for food crops to reduce conflicts over land use. Advances in understanding the physiology and growth of willow, and in the identification of genes underlying key traits, are now at the stage where they can start to be used in breeding programs to help achieve these goals.

Karp A, Hanley SJ, Trybush SO, Macalpine W, Pei M, Shield I (2011) Genetic improvement of willow for bioenergy and biofuels. J. Integr. Plant Biol. 53(2), 151–165.

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