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Improving Sustainability

Endophytes of Poplar for Improved Sustainability of Biomass Production


Our overall objective is to make poplar bioenergy farms more environmentally sustainable and economically feasible by using symbiosis with naturally occurring microbes to reduce the need for fertilizers and water. We are investigating endosymbionts that occur both in wild and cultivated poplar populations.


By colonizing poplar with natural endosymbionts that provide nutrients for the plant and increase rooting, the plants will need less chemical fertilizers. The increased rooting will also provide drought tolerance and thereby reduce water requirements, costs, and environmental impacts on the bioenergy farms.


We have characterized the endosymbionts of wild and bioenergy farm poplar trees for their abilities to provide nitrogen fixation and drought tolerance to the plants. We are also working in the lab to learn how the different endosymbionts work together in the poplar plants using fluorescent tagged microbes.

A sickly poplar cutting growing in a pot.
Poplar under drought stress in a drought tolerance assay.

A healthy poplar growing in a pot.
Poplar inoculated with endosymbionts in drought tolerance assay.