Trees that grow twice as fast as normal have been developed by scientists, in a bid to boost renewable energy and tackle climate change.

They manipulated two genes to accelerate cell division in poplar trees, which were also bigger and had more leaves.

The research, published in Current Biology, could boost biomass energy and help climate change-hit areas.

Researcher Prof Simon Turner of the University of Manchester said: “This needs to be tested but offers a potential way forward for one of the most pressing challenges of the day. ”

He added: “The rate at which trees grow is determined by the rate of cell division in the stem. We have identified two genes that are able to drive cell division in the stem and so override the normal growth pattern.

“This discovery paves the way for generating trees that grow more quickly and so will contribute to meeting the needs for increased plant biomass as a renewable source of biofuels, chemicals and materials while minimising further carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere.”

The genes, called PXY and CLE, control the growth of a tree trunk, the research found.
When overexpressed, the trees grew twice as fast as normal and were taller, wider and had more leaves.

The team now plans to work with a forest products company to test their research.