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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Genetic Modification of Herbaceous Plants for Feed and Fuel

Authors
item Vogel, Kenneth
item Jung, Hans Joachim

Submitted to: Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 2000
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Much of the research on the genetic modification of herbaceous plant cell walls has been conducted to improve the utilization of forages by ruminant livestock. Research on improving the forage digestibility of switchgrass, Panicum virgatum L.,and other herbaceous species has demonstrated that genetic improvements can be made in forage quality that can have significant economic value. To meet future energy needs, herbaceous biomas will need to be converted into a liquid fuel, probably ethanol, via conversion technologies still under development. If feedstock quality can be genetically improved, the economics and efficiency of the conversion processes could be significantly enhanced.Improving an agricultural product for improved end product use via genetic modification requires knowledge of desired quality attributes, the relative economic value of the quality parameters in relation to yield, genetic variation for the desired traits, or for molecular breeding, knowledge of genes to suppress or add, and knowledge of any associated negative consequences of genetic manipulation. Once traits that affect biomass feedstock conversion are identified, it will be highly feasible to genetically modify the feedstock quality of herbaceous plants using both conventional & molecular breeding techniques. Some traits such as cellulose and lignin concentration will undoubtably be important. The use of molecular markers and transformation technology will greatly enhance the capability of breeders to modify the morphologic structure and cell walls of herbaceous species. It will be necessary to monitor gene flow to remnant wild populations of biomass plants and have strategies available to curtail gene flow if it becomes a potential problem.

Technical Abstract: Much of the research on the genetic modification of herbaceous plant cell walls has been conducted to improve the utilization of forages by ruminant livestock. Research on improving the forage digestibility of switchgrass, Panicum virgatum L.,and other herbaceous species has demonstrated that genetic improvements can be made in forage quality that can have significant economic value. To meet future energy needs, herbaceous biomas will need to be converted into a liquid fuel, probably ethanol, via conversion technologies still under development. If feedstock quality can be genetically improved, the economics and efficiency of the conversion processes could be significantly enhanced.Improving an agricultural product for improved end product use via genetic modification requires knowledge of desired quality attributes, the relative economic value of the quality parameters in relation to yield, genetic variation for the desired traits, or for molecular breeding, knowledge of genes to suppress or add, and knowledge of any associated negative consequences of genetic manipulation. Once traits that affect biomass feedstock conversion are identified, it will be highly feasible to genetically modify the feedstock quality of herbaceous plants using both conventional & molecular breeding techniques. Some traits such as cellulose and lignin concentration will undoubtably be important. The use of molecular markers and transformation technology will greatly enhance the capability of breeders to modify the morphologic structure and cell walls of herbaceous species. It will be necessary to monitor gene flow to remnant wild populations of biomass plants and have strategies available to curtail gene flow if it becomes a potential problem.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014