Poplar is the most complex genome to be sequenced and assembled by a single public sequencing facility and only the third plant to date to have its genome completely sequenced and published. The first, back in 2000, was the tiny weed, Arabidopsis thaliana, an important model for plant genetics. Rice was the second, two years ago. Populus trichocarpa is one of the tallest broadleaf hardwood trees in the western U.S., native to the Pacific coast from San Diego to Alaska. The sequenced DNA was isolated from a specimen collected along the banks of the Nisqually river in Washington State.
The poplar project supports a broader DOE drive to accelerate research into biofuels production, under the Bush Administration's Advanced Energy Initiative. In August, the department announced it would spend $250 million over five years to establish and operate two new Bioenergy Research Centers. The DOE-supported research into biofuels is focusing on both plants and microbes, in an effort to discover new biotechnology-based methods of producing fuels from plant matter (biomass) cost-effectively.
Earlier this year DOE published a study summarizing the views of over fifty leading scientists in the field of biofuels research that expressed optimism about the prospects for finding cost-effective methods to produce fuels such as ethanol from cellulose in the not-too-distant future (Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol, available at http://genomicsgtl.energy.gov/biofuels/b2bworkshop.shtml). Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman has set a departmental goal of replacing 30 percent of current transportation fuel demand with biofuels by 2030.
DOE scientists envision a future where vast poplar farms in regions such as the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest, and portions of the southeastern U.S. could provide a steady supply of tree biomass
Source:DOE/Joint Genome Institute