An experiment, which findings have appeared in the Biofuels journal, has encovered that willow trees grown at an angle produce five times more biofuel than willows grown diagonally. According to the research, done by the Imperial College London, crooked willows produce a special kind of wood that results in higher sugar content.
Willows are traditionally grown for wicker furniture and baskets, but the leaves and bark of the willow tree also have been used a precursor of asprin. At the moment, the short rotation coppice crop is mainly grown as a resource for the biofuel and biomass industry. Willow appears to produce the highest yield of biomass compared to other woody biomass crops, making it a good source for renewable bio-fuel.
Scientists were previously unable to explain why some willows produced more biofuel than others. The British scientists now found that when trees are blown sideways some trees have a genetic make up which allows them to produce strengthening sugars which try and make the tree grow straight again. These sugars boost the amount of biofuel that can be released from the tree. Michael Ray, a researcher at Imperial College London, explained to the BBC; “The phenomenon we are investigating is a natural phenomenon that is observed in most trees. You get a special type of wood (known as reaction wood) laid down in response to environmental stimuli, such as tipping or wind, which induces these special woods to be formed.”
The researchers preditct that in the future all willow crops could be bred for this genetic trait, making them a more productive and greener energy source. The biofuel willow crops could be grown in climatically challenging conditions where the options for growing food crops are limited.
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Via: BBC News and RDmag.com