But why? This question has been unanswered until now. Researchers from Imperial College London, Rothamsted Research, and the University of the Highlands have published a new study in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels answering that question. They found a genetic trait that creates more sugars (used for strengthening) when the willow ‘senses’ it is at an angle. These sugars can then be turned into biofuel.
Willow is widely grown across the UK and this finding could boost its appeal. One of the researchers, Dr. Angela Karp of Rothamsted Research, says the study shows “that some willows respond more to environmental stresses, such as strong winds, by changing the composition of their wood in ways that are useful to us. As breeders this is good news because it means we could improve willow by selecting these types from the huge diversity in our collections”.
These angled willows can produce as much a five times more biofuel than their vertical brethren.
Photo Credit: Dr. Nicholas Brereton, Imperial College London