Reshaping Nature: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Trees

By: | July 18th, 2023

Image courtesy Wikimedia

Genetic engineering has allowed us to reshape nature in remarkable ways, as seen in the development of spicy tomatoes and non-browning mushrooms. Now Scientists have expanded their genetic engineering efforts to target trees, which play a crucial role in our ecosystem.

A 2022 study from Ohio State University revealed that trees have grown 30% larger due to increased carbon dioxide levels. However, wood fiber production has struggled to meet the growing demand for renewable materials.

Scientists are using CRISPR editing to modify lignin in wood

Scientists have successfully genetically engineered a tree with lower lignin content, the polymer that makes plants rigid and gives wood its hardness. This breakthrough has the potential to promote sustainability in the lumber and fiber industry. It will also contribute to efforts in combating climate change.

“Multiplex genome editing provides a remarkable opportunity to improve forest resilience, productivity, and utilization at a time when our natural resources are increasingly challenged by climate change and the need to produce more sustainable biomaterials using less land,” said Wang, assistant professor and director of the Forest Biotechnology Group at NC State and co-corresponding author of the paper.

Testing Performance and Adaptability of Gene-Edited Trees

The next steps involve conducting greenhouse tests to compare the performance of the gene-edited trees with wild trees. Following that, field trials will be conducted to evaluate the adaptability of the gene-edited trees to outdoor conditions. These tests will provide valuable information about the potential of these trees in real-world applications.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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