Miscanthus Genetic Map Provides Resource for Crop Improvement

A total of 261 loci were mapped in M. sacchariflorus.

The Science

Perennial grasses are a potential source of feedstocks for “second-generation” cellulosic bioethanol because they efficiently accumulate large amounts of biomass and can be grown on marginal lands not suitable for conventional agricultural food crops. Among these grasses, Miscanthus is one of the most promising bioenergy crops in the Midwest because of its extremely high biomass yields, in particular the species Miscanthus x giganteus. However, efforts to breed improved varieties of Miscanthus are hampered by its complicated genome structure and lack of genetic tools. With support from the Joint USDA-DOE Plant Feedstocks Genomics for Bioenergy program, researchers report the first genetic linkage maps of Miscanthus using molecular markers derived from the closely related sugarcane grass. Genetic similarity between Miscanthus, sorghum, and sugarcane allowed comparative studies between the three species, revealing information into the genomic relationships among them and also allowing the first genetic map length estimate of Miscanthus. These resources provide a framework that will significantly enhance Miscanthus improvement efforts by facilitating identification of biomass-relevant genes and marker-assisted selection in this important bioenergy crop.

The Impact

Genetic linkage maps, particularly those based on DNA markers, have provided an efficient tool for many applications in crop breeding. Genetic mapping is particularly valuable to identify genetic factors that are quantitatively inherited and/or only expressed under particular conditions (such as pest or pathogen attack, or drought). Genetic markers linked to agriculturally important traits can be used for marker-assisted selection at early stages to accelerate breeding of desirable cultivars.


Kim, C., D. Zhang, S. A. Auckland, L. K. Rainville, K. Jakob, B. Kronmiller, E. J. Sacks, M. Deuter, and A. H. Paterson. 2012. “SSR-Based Genetic Maps of Miscanthus sinensis and M. sacchariflorus and Their Comparison to Sorghum,” Theoretical and Applied Genetics, DOI:10.1007/s00122-012-1790-1.