- The MultiBioPro Consortium has carried out extensive analysis of poplar and tree tobacco as biofuel feedstocks and has evaluated the performance of the latter in large scale field trials.
- It could be demonstrated that good biomass yield was achievable in both crops with laboratory and pilot scale biorefinery, suggesting that the tree tobacco performs commendably in comparison to established feedstocks such as maize and poplar. Thus the two major criteria for assessing the development of a biofuel were successfully fulfilled.
- In addition, thorough chemical composition analysis of both species and different stages of the biorefinery process resulted in the identification of valorisable components whilst biophysical analysis of the novel poplar material identified important structural materials which may be exploitable in terms of industrial application. These opportunities are being further explored.
“Balancing the fundamental and applied aspects of the project were the most exciting parts of MultiBioPro and it was nice to see the real world impact of the academic lab work through cooperation with industry. The project has massive potential impact towards the development of a novel biofuel grown on marginal lands.”Alisdair Fernie, MPG, MultiBioPro Coordinator
- Poplar is a fast-growing biomass crop that is typically grown in short rotation coppice cultures to maximize biomass yield. Poplar is a promising feedstock for the biorefinery but its wood is currently difficult to process because of the presence of lignin which hampers the enzymatic saccharification of cellulose into fermentable sugars. In the MultiBioPro project, genes of the lignin biosynthesis pathway have been discovered that can be used in engineering and breeding programs to overcome this recalcitrance problem. Genetically engineered poplar trees with an altered lignin composition have been made and grown in the greenhouse and in the field. We have shown that wood from these newly engineered trees is more easily processed into fermentable sugars. Within the consortium, we also evaluate the field performance of these lignin-engineered trees (biomass yield, abiotic and biotic stress resistance) and we investigate whether these new wood types have new mechanical properties. In addition, using LC-MS based metabolite profiling; our goal was to identify added value compounds present in poplar wood and bark.
- A less heralded potential biofuel stock N. glauca is a woody species of tobacco that thrives on marginal land with minimal input. The MultiBioPro project assessed the suitability of tree tobacco in a variety of manners including large scale field trials in the UAE and Madagascar, laboratory and pilot scale biorefining comparisons to established biofuel feedstocks, such as maize, and comprehensive chemical analysis of both the composition of the plants themselves and each stage of the extraction process; documenting both the potential for use as a fuel and at the same time the presence of other commercially valuable by-products. In parallel, the consortium sequenced the genome of N. glauca, and performed comparative expression and metabolome analysis during the development of the leaves and stem material. We are currently in the process of annotating the genome prior to its publication. Whilst doing so we are paying special attention to any factors which may explain its extreme stress tolerance since these features may be transferable to other crop species.