This research, which was funded by the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center and the Department of Energy's Bioenergy Sciences Center (BESC), was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world's most cited multidisciplinary scientific journals.
"This is a finding with important implications for forage improvement and biofuel technology," Dixon said. "It means we are closer to producing improved plants for farmers and ranchers, and it means easier conversion of plants into biofuels. However, this is still only a conceptual breakthrough because you don't want to generate plants without salicylic acid."
Salicylic acid plays an important role in disease resistance. Dixon's team is testing what they already suspect - the new plants will probably not be able to withstand pathogens. Still the breakthrough is another necessary step in the scientific process to producing low lignin plants that still grow normally and can ward off diseases.
"Discoveries have to build on each other until you reach your ultimate goal," Dixon said. "We just have to take one more step, allowing salicylic acid to be made when necessary, but now blocking some step between salicylic acid and the resulting growth response. We'll get there. This discovery makes me know that we're close."
Source: Richard Dixon, D. Phil.