Genomics of Wood Formation and Cellulosic Biomass Traits in Sunflower
Investigators: Steven J. Knapp, Jeffrey Dean, Joseph Nain, Laura Marek, and Mark Davis
Institutions: University of Georgia, Iowa State University, and the DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colorado
Non-Technical Summary: Sunflower is a North American native plant which thrives in semi-arid and arid habitats and produces high biomass yields in cultivation when water and other inputs are non-limiting. While sunflower is a globally important oilseed grown on 24 million hectares worldwide, and is primarily known to US consumers as an ornamental and confectionery plant, this species has significant potential for biofuel production. Several wild species produce woody stems with chemical properties similar to poplar and are excellent sources of natural genetic diversity for enhancing cellulosic biomass yields and wood production in sunflower.
Objectives: Our research focuses on assessing the chemical, physical, and biofuel properties of cellulosic biomass materials produced by sunflower, identifying genes important for wood formation and cellulosic biomass yield, and developing genetic and genomic resources for manipulating cellulosic biomass traits in sunflower breeding programs.
Approach: The goals of this research will be accomplished by tapping genetic diversity for wood formation and cellulosic biomass yield in two wood-producing, drought tolerant, desert-dwelling wild species (silverleaf and Algodones dune sunflower). Cellulosic biomass hybrids can be developed by combining the outstanding agronomic characteristics of modern oilseed hybrids with the cellulosic biomass yields of ultra-late flowering, very tall-growing, very high biomass, wood-producing ecotypes of silverleaf or dune sunflower. Sunflower is naturally drought tolerant, can be produced on marginal lands, and complements many of the grass and grain species presently targeted for cellulosic biomass feedstock production.
Name: Steven J. Knapp