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2011 Awardee

Quantifying Phenotypic and Genetic Diversity of Miscanthus sinensis as a Resource for Knowledge-Based Improvement of M. ×giganteus (M. sinensis × M. sacchariflorus)

INVESTIGATORS: Erik J. Sacks, Joe Brummer, Megan Hall, Stephen Long, Junhua Peng, Toshihiko Yamada, and Chang Yeon Yu

INSTITUTIONS: University of Illinois; Colorado State University; University of California, Berkeley; Wuhan Botanical Garden; Hokkaido University; Kangwon National University

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Improved cultivars of perennial bioenergy crops are needed to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and provide new economic opportunities for farmers. Miscanthus is among the most promising cellulosic biofuel crops for temperate, moist environments, which include nearly all agricultural lands from the central U.S. through to the eastern U.S. However, only a single sterile triploid genotypeof M. ×giganteus (M. sinensis × M. sacchariflorus) is currently available for feedstock production, which is a serious potential risk because a new disease or pest could conceivably cause extensive damage to plantings. Thus, there is a need to broaden the genetic base of Miscanthus for bioenergy. The goal of this project is to obtain fundamental information about M. sinensis genetic diversity and environmental adaptation, to facilitate development of Miscanthus as a bioenergy crop. We will also identify genes and molecular markers associated with traits of interest, which will improve our knowledge of Miscanthus genomics and provide new tools for increasing the efficiency of breeding improved cultivars of Miscanthus.

OBJECTIVES: 1. Determine genetic diversity and population structure for a core collection of ~500 M. sinensis genotypes. 2. Quantify phenotypic variation in M. sinensis for key yield and adaptation traits at field trial sites in the U.S., Canada and Asia, and assess the effects of genotype × environment (GxE) interactions. 3. Identify genes governing key traits.

APPROACH: This project will establish and evaluate a core collection of M. sinensis genotypes from throughout the species natural distribution in China, Japan and Korea. Molecular marker analysis of the core collection will be used to elucidate evolutionary relationships among the accessions, which will become a useful aid for parent selection in breeding programs. In parallel with the molecular analysis, the core collection will be grown in replicated field trials at an environmentally diverse set of locations, and evaluated for yield-potential and adaptation. The field trial study will facilitate the breeding of improved cultivars that are adapted to U.S. production environments. A combined analysis of the molecular marker data and the phenotypic data will enable identification of molecular markers associated with traits of interest, which is expected to improve the efficiency of future Miscanthus breeding efforts. Lastly, candidate genes of known function in other grasses will be evaluated to determine if they are likely to have a similar function in Miscanthus.

PROJECT CONTACT:
Name: Sacks, E.
Phone: 217-333-9327
Fax: 217-244-3637
Email: esacks@illinois.edu

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