In Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Amherst plant geneticist Sam Hazen partnered with Genoverde Biosciences, Inc. to test the commercial viability of Hazen’s gene trait approach to bioengineering loblolly pine for high wood density by modifying secondary cell wall gene regulation.
Hazen explains, “For years we have been doing the basic science to understand the gene regulation of plant growth, and we discovered something that can potentially be used as gene technology to increase cell wall growth. Since trees are made up mostly of cell wall, this biotechnology would lead to increasing biomass up to 20 percent. Yielding that much more wood density would definitely be economically worth the effort.”
If successful, this bioengineering project would provide more wood material per tree and per acre with no added cost to production. Plus, bioengineered trees would help to protect the environment by sequestering more atmospheric carbon dioxide to mitigate global climate change.