Genomic Science Program
U.S. Department of Energy | Office of Science | Biological and Environmental Research Program

Accelerating the Domestication of Miscanthus for Biofuel Production

2009 Awardee

Investigators: A.H. Paterson and E.J. Sacks

Institutions: University of Georgia and Mendel Biotechnology

Non-Technical Summary: Expansion of agriculture to provide plant biomass for production of fuels and/or feedstocks will require additions to our present repertoire of crops. The Saccharinae clade of tropical grasses is of singular importance, including Miscanthus, among the highest-yielding of biomass crops. Its adaptability to continental Europe shows the feasibility of producing Miscanthus in temperate latitudes. Scientific breeding of Miscanthus is only beginning, and many early priorities are “domestication traits” about which there exists much information in sorghum and/or sugarcane and for which the locations of controlling genes/QTLs often correspond across divergent grasses.

Objectives: The objectives of this proposal are (1) to jump-start Miscanthus improvement by empirically testing whether previously mapped genes/QTLs from sorghum and other cereals are diagnostic of key Miscanthus traits and (2) to improve knowledge of Miscanthus genome organization.

Approach: Obj. 1. Starting from gene/QTL locations in sorghum and other cereals, we will test corresponding Miscanthus loci to try to accelerate discovery of DNA markers diagnostic of biomass yield determinants including flowering time, stalk dimensions, and axillary bud production/rhizome expression. We will also explore flooding tolerance based on comparative data from rice. Miscanthus populations segregating for these (and many other) traits have been established.

Obj. 2. There exists inadequate information about aspects of Miscanthus genome biology that has both practical and fundamental importance. Miscanthus has a basal set of 19 chromosomes (2n = 38 for sinensis and 2n = 38 or 76 for sacchariflorus) versus the basal set of 10 that is characteristic of much of the Saccharinae. However, the true relationship of the 19 Miscanthus chromosomes to those of other Saccharinae, important to translating genomic data from models such as sorghum, is not known. Also unknown are important parameters, such as levels and patterns of homoeologous gene duplication, and the types and frequencies of genetic polymorphism in both diploids and polyploids that are central to Miscanthus improvement. These gaps in knowledge will be remedied by combining next-generation sequencing with phylogenomic and mapping approaches using established populations.

Project Contact
Name: A.H. Paterson
Phone: 706-583-0162
Fax: 706-583-0160
Email: [email protected]