Scientists at the University of Manchester may have discovered a way to make trees grow faster. Building on research they did in 2010, Professor Simon Turner and his team managed to get trees to get poplar trees to grow larger and faster than they would normally.
The 2010 research identified the PXY and CLE genes, which control the growth of the tree trunks. Plant growth is based on how quickly cells divide, which is controlled by these genes, and is impacted by a number of outside factors, including climate. Adverse climate conditions are met by most plants with reduced growth, but by overexpressing these two genes, it may be possible to override that check factor and gets trees and other plants to grow larger and faster in adverse weather.
The poplar trees they experimented on grew faster, larger, and had more leaves than normal. The applications of this genetic modification are many. For one, larger trees can produce more materials for use in biofuels, construction, and so forth. By getting those trees or other plants to grow faster, those materials also become more sustainable. And in areas where climate change has begun to stunt plant growth, it might be possible to ensure larger crop yields or better ensure ecological stability by growing plants faster. Larger trees also produce more oxygen, helping to offset carbon emissions.
It’s not just trees that follow these rules though, and it might be possible to grow larger crops faster and ensure greater agricultural yields. Doing so could result in cheaper prices for fresh fruit, vegetables, and grains, which would make getting those important foodstuffs to people wit lower incomes could be a lot easier.
They haven’t applied this method in the field yet, so there’s no guarantee that it will work “in the wild,” so to speak. But that’s the next step, and the research team is planning to work with a wood products company in order to field test their findings.