University of Wisconsin researcher engineers softwoods to act like hardwoods

In Wisconsin, scientists have demonstrated the potential for softwoods to process more easily into pulp and paper if engineered to incorporate a key feature of hardwoods. The finding, published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could improve the economics of the pulp, paper and biofuels industries and reduce those industries’ environmental impact.

“What we’ve shown is that it’s possible to pair some of the most economically desirable traits of each wood type,” says John Ralph, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center’s (GLBRC) plants leader and a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of biochemistry.

According to Ralph, altering what once was the hard and fast distinction between softwoods and hardwoods — which process into largely separate product streams — could create opportunities for the multi-billion dollar industries that process biomass for profit.

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