Improving Alfalfa as a Biofuel Feedstock
Investigators: E. Charles Brummer, Maria J. Monteros, Steven J. Knapp, and Gregory D. May
Institutions: University of Georgia, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc., National Center for Genome Resources
Non-Technical Summary: Alfalfa, widely grown in the United States as a hay crop, can also be used for bioenergy. At harvest, alfalfa leaves would be removed as a high-protein animal feed, leaving less nutritious stems to be used for energy production. Biofuel crops must maximize the production of energy, which requires high yields of biomass with optimum fuel quality. The long-term goal of our project is to develop alfalfa biofuel-ready cultivars that have improved yield and quality.
Objectives: To reach that goal, this project specifically seeks (1) to develop genetic markers in genes that we suspect may control biomass composition and yield, (2) to screen alfalfa plants with the markers to identify the genetic variants that each plant possesses, and (3) to associate those markers with yield and cell-wall composition measured on the same plants that were grown in the field.
Approach: The markers we are developing represent DNA sequence changes between individual plants. Therefore, by examining the coincidence of particular plants having, for example, high yield and a particular DNA variant at a specific marker, we can identify markers that will be useful to improve yield. The markers we identify that are associated with optimal biofuel characteristics will be directly integrated into our traditional field-oriented alfalfa breeding programs to improve breeding efficiency. These markers will speed the development of biofuel-ready alfalfa cultivars for farmers.
Name: E. Charles Brummer