INTEGRATION OF MOLECULAR AND CLASSICAL PERENNIAL GRASS BREEDING FOR TURFGRASS IMPROVEMENT AND BIOFUEL PRODUCTION

Project Details

Description

Turfgrass touches millions of Americans' lives daily in physical and social ways that make it an important and positive element in a myriad of environments. Although turfgrass is an important component of our economy and a benefit to the environment, it also accounts for a large percentage of pesticides, water and fertilizer applied annually. One of our objectives is to confirm that DNA markers associated with disease and stress tolerance can be directly used for marker-assisted selection in a classical breeding program to improve selection efficiency of turfgrass germplasm. This will hasten development of cultivars that will require less pesticide and cultural inputs as well as providing the framework for understanding disease resistance and stress tolerance at the molecular level. Although perennial grasses such as switchgrasses are expected to be used as a biofuel crop on marginal land there has been little to no extensive research to evaluate their performance on marginal land. Therefore, it is unknown how perennial grasses will perform on marginal land and how different soil types influence yield characteristics such as cellulose and lignin content, plant height, disease, drought etc. This knowledge is critical to the successful development of biofuels so that enough biomass can be generated domestically to offset foreign oil dependency. Marginal cropland typically has poor quality soils with low amounts of N which can reduce biomass yield. Like turfgrasses, switchgrass is not a food crop and until recently has not been widely studied at the genomic level. In order for switchgrass and other perennial grasses to be successful and economical for biofuel production on marginal land we need to understand the mechanisms of stress tolerance, i.e. response to Nitrogen, Phosphorous, drought, and how environmental conditions like marginal land influence cellulose and lignin content in plant tissue. It is our goal to identify optimum breeding and selection techniques and utilize genomic approaches to identify the best performing switchgrass plants on marginal land (with low N) in Northeastern US and identify germplasm with improved performance on marginal land to use in a breeding program. The research will set the stage for future studies into the basic research of stress tolerance mechanisms as well as give us a better awareness of improving and developing methods and technologies that enhance selection of turfgrass and switchgrass for cultivar development. Additionally it is our hope to apply and expand this integration of molecular and classical breeding to other grass species and important agronomic traits that impact our environment.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date9/1/108/31/15

Funding

  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))

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