New Switchgrass Germplasm Collected in Florida
November 25, 2009
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and cooperators have collected 46 new populations of switchgrass in
Florida, adding valuable new accessions to the germplasm collection of this
potential bioenergy crop.
Switchgrass, a perennial warm season grass used for forage and soil
conservation, is now being studied as a biomass crop for ethanol. These new
additions to the switchgrass perennial grass collection could provide new
genetic resources for biofuel feedstocks.
The research supports the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) priority of developing new sources of bioenergy. ARS is
USDAs principal intramural scientific research agency.
The native switchgrass collection trips were conducted in Florida in 2008
and 2009 by ARS agronomist
Harrison-Dunn and research leader
Pederson at the
Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit in Griffin, Ga. They worked in
cooperation with plant material specialist Mary J. Williams with USDAs
Natural Resources Conservation Service
(NRCS) Florida State Office in Gainesville, Fla., and senior biological
technician Mary Anne Gonter with the
NRCS Brooksville Plant
Materials Center in Brooksville, Fla.
During the collection trips, the researchers discovered new switchgrass
populations in many different environmentsincluding swampy areas, oak
forests, pine scrubs, weedy areas along roadsides, and dune areas along the
coast. The scientific team braved alligators, spiders and other dangers while
collecting switchgrass, often in areas endangered by habitat destruction.
There was significant genetic variation in the switchgrass populations
found, including differences in seed maturity, foliage abundance, plant height,
and panicle (fruit attached to branch) size. GPS coordinates for each location
were recorded, as well as elevation, plant description, site description,
abundance and distribution of plants in the area, and other vegetation found at
The materials will be deposited in the
ARS National Plant Germplasm System
(NPGS), where it will be preserved and maintained for future research by plant
breeders and others interested in improving this valuable grass.