Funded Research Projects: BIORESOURCE SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
Nitrogen fixation in poplar: Increased efficiency of bioenergy crop production
Research Sponsored By: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Project goal is to test the effectiveness of adding nitrogen-fixing endophytes to poplar grown in greenhouse conditions and on a field site at the UW Center for Sustainable Forestry. Prior lab results have demonstrated 1) that the endophytic population of these economically-important tree species includes a diverse range of microorganisms, many of which are diazotrophic (nitrogen-fixing) and 2) that some of the isolates from poplar and willow fix nitrogen by studying the nitrogenase genes, 15N2 incorporation, acetylene reduction assays, and the vigorous growth in nitrogen-free medium. When some of the endophytes are added to sterile plants or seedlings, the growth of the plants is significantly increased. If these lab results are repeated in a large-scale experiment, this research could provide the means of increasing the growth of this important bioenergy crop in an inexpensive, environmentally-sustainable manner. Moreover, since the potential for near term commercialization of poplar to bioethanol process is excellent, the low nutrient requirements for plant growth could further improve process economics.