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Genomic Science Program

Systems Biology for Energy and the Environment

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Genomic Science Program

2014 Awardee

Coordinated Genetic Improvement of Bioenergy Sorghum for Compositional and Agronomic Traits

INVESTIGATORS: Patrick Brown (PI), Markus Pauly

INSTITUTIONS: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of California Berkeley

PROJECT SUMMARY:The goal of this project is to discover and characterize novel genetic variants that affect lignocellulosic composition and saccharification yield in bioenergy feedstock grasses without compromising agronomic performance. Sorghum is a stress- tolerant C4 grass that performs well under drought, flooding, extreme heat, and salinity. Photoperiod-sensitive sorghum varieties accumulate large quantities of vegetative biomass suitable for bioenergy production. Variation in maturity is usually a major source of confounding for marker-trait association studies in diverse germplasm, but is minimal when photoperiod-sensitive sorghums are grown in a temperate environment. Simultaneous evaluation of lignocellulosic compositional and agronomic traits will allow the prioritization of genetic variants that improve overall bioenergy production per unit area. The objectives of the project are: 1) to characterize additive genetic variation in compositional and agronomic traits in a panel of 600 diverse sorghum inbreds; 2) discover genetic variants for these traits using genome-wide association; 3) identify dominance and epistatic effects for these variants in hybrids and F3 families; 4) understand mechanisms of trait variation using detailed compositional and transcriptomic analysis in near-isogenic lines; and 5) use selection indices to translate these results into breeding values tailored to individual conversion platforms. Sorghum is the closest diploid sequenced genome to Saccharum and Miscanthus, two other grass genera that are also promising bioenergy feedstocks. Identification of useful traits and variants in sorghum will thus help guide and accelerate the genetic improvement of both bioenergy sorghum and closely related perennial grasses.

PROJECT CONTACT:
Name: Brown, Patrick
Phone: 217-333-8182
Email: pjb34@illinois.edu

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