With the increase in human demands for energy, purpose-grown woody crops could be part of the global renewable energy solution, especially in geographical regions where plantation forestry is feasible and economically important. In addition, efficient utilization of woody feedstocks would engage in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing the challenge of food and energy security, and resolving the conflict between land use for food or biofuel production. This review compiles existing knowledge on biotechnological and genomics-aided improvements of biomass performance of purpose-grown poplar, willow, eucalyptus and pine species, and their relative hybrids, for efficient and sustainable bioenergy applications. This includes advancements in tree in vitro regeneration, and stable expression or modification of selected genes encoding desirable traits, which enhanced growth and yield, wood properties, site adaptability, and biotic and abiotic stress tolerance. Genetic modifications used to alter lignin/cellulose/hemicelluloses ratio and lignin composition, towards effective lignocellulosic feedstock conversion into cellulosic ethanol, are also examined. Biotech-trees still need to pass challengeable regulatory authorities' processes, including biosafety and risk assessment analyses prior to their commercialization release. Hence, strategies developed to contain transgenes, or to mitigate potential transgene flow risks, are discussed.
Keywords: Eucalyptus; Populus; bioenergy; genetic modification; short-rotation trees.