SBIR Phase I: Genetic improvement of loblolly pine wood for increased density

Period of Performance: 07/01/2016 - 06/30/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Genoverde Biosciences, Incorporated
604 Avis Dr.
Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project will be to increase wood production of managed loblolly pine tree farms by 20%. Global demand for forest industry products, e.g., pulp for paper, saw timber, and wood pellets for fuel, is expected to rise 60-100% by 2060. As the world's 4th largest exporter of forest products, the U.S. is well positioned to help meet these growing needs. To do so, managed loblolly pine tree farms will play a large role in supplying the demand. Using a biotechnology gene trait approach to introduce cell wall gene technology, the goal is to engineer pine trees with 20% more wood density over conventional crops. This may result in more wood material per tree, per acre with no added cost to production processing, i.e., no increase use of land, water, or fertilizers. As an added benefit, bioengineered trees with cell wall gene technologies aid in protecting the environment by sequestering more atmospheric CO2 thus helping to combat the negative effects of global climate change. Ultimately, this work may lead to the development of renewable materials needed to meet societal needs while helping to protect the environment. This Small Business Innovation Research Phase (SBIR) I project proposes to evaluate the use of a biotechnology gene trait approach to bioengineer loblolly pine for high wood density by modifying secondary cell wall gene regulation. The proposed research would utilize a newly adapted pine transformation protocol to introduce cell wall gene platform technologies, together with ubiquitously expressed and secondary wall-specific promoters, to significantly and selectively increase cell wall density in loblolly pine. Bioengineered plants will be selected using herbicide resistance and the effects of transgene incorporation analyzed through gene expression and histochemical analysis. The anticipated outcome of this project will be 400 bioengineered pine seedlings with greater strength and increased value to be tested in greenhouse and field trials once approved. This project will serve as proof-of-concept testing for select cell wall gene technologies in commercial tree crops towards technology commercialization.