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South Africa, US Researchers Sequence Eucalyptus Genome

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists in South Africa, the US, and other countries have completed the sequencing of the Eucalyptus tree genome, an important commercial crop that could be used as a biofuel, and it will be published in early 2012, the University of Pretoria said today.

More than 130 researchers in 18 nations, including the US Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute, were involved in the sequencing and annotation of the genome of Eucalyptus grandis, which contains 40,000 genes and 640 million base pairs.

Plants like E. grandis that grow very quickly and are rich in woody biomass are useful for making bioproducts and biofuels, explained Professor Zander Myburg of the Department of Genetics and Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria.

"Trees are advantageous when it comes to producing biomass. Unlike seasonal crops, they can be harvested year-round to supply a stable supply of biomass," Myburg said in a statement. "In general they also don't compete with food crops. In addition, wood processing is well established in the pulp and paper industry. Similar processing can be used to isolate the cellulose from the wood for biofuels and other products."

Because of favorable climate conditions and growing eucalyptus plantations in the Southern Hemisphere, southern Africa currently is an important supplier of wood pulp and fiber.

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