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Wood formation processes : the key to improvement of the raw material

Objective

The proposal addresses section 1.3 'The Forestry-Wood Chain'. It aims to 'enhance the fibrous and mechanical properties of wood' (1.3.1.2) by improving control over wood properties, enabling them to be matched to enduser requirements. It will contribute to improved productivity of an increasingly important species (poplar) for the European pulp and paper industry ( 1.3 .1.1), and to improved forest management and harvesting systems by providing a basis for genetic transformation of trees to ensure efficient use of forest land (1.3.1.3). This will lead to increased competitiveness and economic benefits for European tree growers and industrial users. Hybrid aspen ( Populus tremula x tremuloïdes) will be used as a model system to obtain a better understanding of fundamental wood formation processes.This represents an innovative approach to the study of plant cell differentiation, which has hitherto largely concentrated on non-woody species. It will establish generic principles for use in genetic engineering of other tree species and provide a base for a programme of genetic modification to produce 'designer' trees, with wood matched to end-users' specific requirements.

The work is timely because there is increasing demand for uniform raw material of high quality from the wood processing industries, coupled with a decrease in supply from natural forests. There is also pressure on the forest industry to grow native hardwoods rather than exotic softwoods, since the latter are now regarded as aesthetically unattractive and environmentally damaging. Improving the productivity, uniformity and quality of hardwoods will reduce processing costs and wastage for industrial users, in particular, it will reduce energy requirements, and by increased utilisation of raw material will reduce pollution (mainly by reducing water requirements in processing). Better financial returns from trees with modified characteristics will encourage landowners to establish plantations, providing employment in rural areas, and reducing demand for imports of expensive and endangered hardwood species from third countries. The project needs to be carried out at the Community level, since there are few workers in Europe with the necessary experience and expertise in the field of cambium activity and wood formation. This proposal involves recognised experts from five Community countries bringing their special skills to bear on the problem in a coherent and co-ordinated way. The vascular cambium and differentiating wood cells in untransformed plants, and plants genetically transformed to have altered endogenous auxin levels, will be studied. At the tissue level, the effect of auxin on rates of cell production and wood anatomy of will be studied. At the cellular level, wood formation will be studied using state of the art and novel techniques of molecular biology, biochemistry and microscopy. Some established techniques will be applied to the vascular cambium for the first time to enable a high resolution study of the effect of this growth substance on fundamental wood formation processes.

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Coordinator

UNIVERSITY OF READING

Address

Whiteknights
Rg6 2as Reading

United Kingdom

Participants (1)

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Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

France

Project information

Grant agreement ID: FAIR983972

  • Start date

    1 April 1998

  • End date

    31 March 2001

Funded under:

FP4-FAIR

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 666 468

  • EU contribution

    € 1 260 000

Coordinated by:

UNIVERSITY OF READING

United Kingdom