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VIB applies for second poplar field trial
Date:2/1/2013

Ghent, 1 February 2013. VIB has asked the federal government for a license to perform a second field trial with genetically modified poplars. The wood from these trees has a slightly different composition, meaning that it can be converted to sugars in a more efficient and more environmentally friendly manner. One of the aims of the field trial is to evaluate how the trees perform under realistic outdoor conditions. Another aim will be to expose the wood from the poplars to empirical conversion trials at a pilot factory scale. The field trial will take place at the ILVO Wetteren field trial site and falls under the "Ghent Bio-Economy" focal point of the University of Ghent.

The study framework

The field trial forms part of the research into options for using trees with an altered wood composition as a raw material for sustainable, bio-based products and bio-energy. Bio-plastics and biodegradable materials are currently made primarily using starch from crops such as corn. Alternatives are being sought to make the process more energy-efficient and to reserve fertile soil and food crops for food production. Trees may form an alternative, as their wood forms a possible raw material. Poplars have a number of interesting characteristics for this purpose: They grow quickly and they also grow well in boggy soil that is less suitable for food production.

Which genetic modification?

Wood consists primarily of three components: cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin. The first two components cellulose and hemi-cellulose are sugar polymers. These are the sugars that form the raw materials for the production of bio-plastics and biodegradable biomaterials. Bio-fuel can also be produced by means of fermentation. The third component lignin gives the wood more sturdiness. It must be degraded in order to release the sugar molecules. The degradation of lignin is technically complicated and an environmentally unfriendly process as a resul
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Contact: Kris Van der Beken
kris.vanderbeken@vib.be
32-473-783-435
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)
Source:Eurekalert

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