Luisa Trindade, professor at the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Wageningen, is currently researching fiber crops and the use of their biomass as a raw material for the production of paper, bioplastics and textiles. Her research is currently focused on the Miscanthus, a herbaceous plant with a high cellulose content, originating from Japan and the Philippines. However, Trindade strives for more than that and sees the tomato plant as a future challenge in the framework of this project.
Luisa Trindade's research team has developed eight new Miscanthus hybrid varieties. These hybrids have been planted in ten different places in Europe. "It is possible for one hybrid to be doing very well in the Netherlands, while another is performing better in Russia. It is also possible that a variety is doing well everywhere. We are interested in the latter. With the use of breeding techniques for the development of genetic markers, we want to improve the usability of crops step by step, not only on agricultural land, but also in peripheral areas."
The Miscanthus has a number of interesting properties, including a high biomass production, and therefore also a high capacity to capture CO2. The biomass of the Miscanthus consists mainly of lignocellulose. The breeding, therefore, focuses on improving the composition of this polymer.
Regarding the use of tomato plants in her research, Trindade states that "as a breeder, my goal is to be able to use the whole plant. I believe that, in the future, we will develop tomato varieties whose entire biomass will be used for both food-related and non-food related purposes. And who knows, maybe we will develop varieties with edible stems and leaves."
According to the researcher, the world needs plants that can be used without any waste. "That requires the development of new crops and the redesign of existing crops. In all cases, however, these are plants that can be used up to the last fiber or the last protein molecule."