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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Lignin-first biorefining of Nordic poplar to produce cellulose fibers could displace cotton production on agricultural lands

Adler, Anneli; Kumaniaev, Ivan; Karacic, Almir; Baddigam, Kiran Reddy; Hanes, Rebecca J.; Subbotina, Elena; Bartling, Andrew W.; Huertas-Alonso, Alberto J.; Moreno, Andres; Hakansson, Helena; Mathew, Aji P.; Beckham, Gregg T.; Samec, Joseph S. M.


Here, we show that lignin-first biorefining of poplar can enable the production of dissolving cellulose pulp that can produce regenerated cellulose, which could substitute cotton. These results in turn indicate that agricultural land dedicated to cotton could be reclaimed for food production by extending poplar plantations to produce textile fibers. Based on climate-adapted poplar clones capable of growth on marginal lands in the Nordic region, we estimate an environmentally sustainable annual biomass production of similar to 11 tonnes/ha. At scale, lignin-first biorefining of this poplar could annually generate 2.4 tonnes/ha of dissolving pulp for textiles and 1.1 m(3) biofuels. Life cycle assessment indicates that, relative to cotton production, this approach could substantially reduce water consumption and identifies certain areas for further improvement. Overall, this work highlights a new value chain to reduce the environmental footprint of textiles, chemicals, and biofuels while enabling land reclamation and water savings from cotton back to food production.

Published in

2022, Volume: 6, number: 8, pages: 1845-1858
Publisher: CELL PRESS

      SLU Authors

    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG7 Affordable and clean energy
      SDG2 Zero hunger

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Agricultural Science
      Renewable Bioenergy Research

      Publication Identifiers


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