The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative* have jointly selected five projects for awards totaling $4.9 million for biobased-fuel research. These awards continue a commitment begun in 2006 to conduct fundamental research in biomass genomics that will establish a scientific foundation to facilitate and accelerate the use of woody plant tissue for bioenergy and biofuel.
In 2015, DOE will provide $2.9 million in funding over 3 years, while USDA will award $2 million over 3 years.
Goal: To identify loci and alleles that will be helpful for breeders in producing more robust sorghum lines designed for biomass production. In this project, assays will be developed and used to screen diverse sorghum germplasm for variation in the defense response and disease resistance and to identify genes associated with this variation, which will be used to develop quantitative, durable disease resistance for improved bioenergy sorghum.
Goal: To identify anthracnose resistance loci from diverse sorghum germplasm, establish against which pathotypes the resistance alleles at these loci protect, and determine the underlying disease resistance mechanism. This work will allow dissection of the anthracnose resistance response into its multiple gene components and further understanding of the host/pathogen relationship present in different sorghum types to accelerate breeding and provide plant breeders with a tool kit that provides maximum levels of resistance in the intended area of production.
Goal: To develop an integrative, hierarchical model of P. trichocarpa defense that integrates genetic resistance and defense mutualists. This study will test the placement of several factors that contribute to rust resistance under different circumstances, including major and minor plant resistance genes, plant defense compounds, direct competitors, and defense mutualists within the microbiome. The goal is to develop disease management strategies that harness both resistance genes and naturally occurring defense mutualists of P. trichocarpa, maximizing plant resistance and productivity while minimizing impacts on the surrounding ecological landscape.
Goal: To identify genes involved in rust resistance in willow that may be introgressed into new, improved willow cultivars through hybridization. This study will also generate molecular markers linked to those rust resistance genes that can be used in the early selection of resistant seedlings in breeding programs. The ultimate goal is to develop willow cultivars with improved rust resistance that result in greater yields, wider adoption of willow bioenergy crops, and increased production of renewable energy.
Goal: To identify candidate effector genes in P. emaculata that interact with specific switchgrass resistance genes, and to develop and to test models of these interactions on switchgrass cultivars infected with field rust isolates. This study will reveal new strategies for generating more durable resistance to P. emaculata and other pathogens. Moreover, it can provide the knowledge base for the development of diagnostic tools for rapidly assessing the nature of a field P. emaculata isolate, thus identifying the host resistance cultivars that will exhibit the optimal resistance to the field pathogen populations at any given location.