Cornell receives grant to study willow as a promising bioenergy crop

August 3, 2012 |

In New York State, scientists at Cornell University now believe commercialization of shrub willow as a biofuel feedstock could be years closer than they believed. A new $1.37 million grant is set to enable Cornell researchers to take advantage of the newly mapped shrub willow genome to study hybrid vigor and yield.

“Determining the precise genetic mechanisms that produce hybrid vigor has been a scientific challenge for a century,” said associate professor of horticulture Larry Smart, who has been working with  Christopher Town, professor at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Rockville, Md., to study the genetics of superior growth in hybrids of shrub willow, a fast-growing, perennial woody plant.

Unlocking those mechanisms and then developing simple techniques for finding the genetic fingerprint for hybrid vigor in parent species could cut the time it takes to identify promising progeny, Smart said. And time is money for farmers to adopt a new crop like shrub willow — and for companies to accept the end product — they need assurance of long-term profitability before taking on the associated higher risk.

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Category: Research

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