The invention provides methods for modifying lignin, cellulose, xylan, and hemicellulose content in plants, and for achieving ectopic lignification and, for instance, secondary cell wall synthesis in pith cells, by altered regulation of a WRKY transcription factor. Nucleic acid constructs for altered WRKY-TF expression are described. Transgenic plants are provided that comprise modified pith cell walls, and lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose content. Plants described herein may be used, for example, as improved biofuel feedstock and as highly digestible forage crops.
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