A major challenge for the achievement of a sustainable energy future is our understanding of the molecular basis of superior growth and adaptation in woody plants suitable for biomass production. Eucalyptus species are among the fastest growing woody plants in the world, with mean annual increments up to 100 cubic meter per hectare. Eucalyptus is the most valuable and most widely planted genus of plantation forest trees in the world (ca. 18 million hectares) due to its wide adaptability, extremely fast growth rate, good form, and excellent wood and fiber properties. Eucalyptus is also listed as one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s candidate biomass energy crops. Genome sequencing is essential for understanding the basis of its superior properties and to extend these attributes to other species. Genomics will also allow us to adapt Eucalyptus trees for green energy production in regions (such as the Southeastern USA) where it cannot currently be grown. The unique evolutionary history, keystone ecological status, and adaptation to marginal sites make Eucalyptus an excellent focus for expanding our knowledge of the evolution and adaptive biology of perennial plants.
Principal Investigators: Zander Myburg (Univ. of Pretoria), Dario Grattapaglia (EMBRAPA and Catholic Univ. of Brasilia), and Jerry Tuskan (Oak Ridge Natl. Lab.)