Engineering for a better tree

Published March 1, 2000

According to Science News, wood harvested from trees that have been genetically engineered could make paper less costly and more environmentally friendly to produce.

Vincent L. Chiang of the Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan and his colleagues have reduced lignin, a polymer that holds cells together, in aspens. The genetically engineered trees were found to grow faster and contain more cellulose, the material used in making paper, than regular aspens. In addition, the additional cellulose was found to aid the structural stability of the trees.

Chiang chose aspens because they are fast growing and popular in the Midwest for their wood pulp. He is now testing his process on other types of trees.

Cutting the lignin content in wood could also make it more practical to produce ethanol from wood, according to Tom Jeffries, director of the Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin.

For more information

on Dr. Chiang’s work, visit the Web site of MTU’s Wood Science Research department,