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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Impact of Reduced Lignin on Plant Fitness

Authors
item Pedersen, Jeffrey
item Vogel, Kenneth
item Funnell-Harris, Deanna

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 28, 2005
Publication Date: May 1, 2005
Citation: Pedersen, J.F., Vogel, K.P., Funnell, D. 2005. Impact of reduced lignin on plant fitness. Crop Sci. 45:812-819.

Interpretive Summary: Lignin is a complex plant polymer that provides strength to plant tissues, provides resistance to attack by pests and mechanical damage, and is important in water movement. Lignin also reduces the nutritive value of plant tissues fed to livestock. Lignin content of crop plants has been reduced using traditional plant breeding, natural and induced mutations, and recently via genetic engineering. Our objective was to examine the effects of reducing lignin on agricultural fitness. In general, crop yields are depressed by significant reductions in lignin content. Other negative effects observed in plants with lowered lignin contents include lodging and reduction of long-term survival of some perennial species. However, the interactions of specific lignin reducing genes with hybrid or cultivar are substantial. Examples are provided that demonstrate that lignin can be reduced in specific lines or populations without damaging fitness, indicating that hybrids or cultivars with reduced lignin and acceptable levels of agricultural performance may be possible, at least for some crop species.

Technical Abstract: Lignin content of crop plants has been reduced using traditional plant breeding, natural and induced mutations, and insertion of transgenes. The effects of these genes and associated lower lignin content have been examined in terms of agricultural fitness or with regard to economically harvestable yields of useful plant products, or, in the case of some perennial species, survivability over multiple years. In general, crop yields are depressed by significant reductions in lignin content. Other negative effects observed in plants with lowered lignin contents include lodging and reduction of long-term survival of some perennial species. However, the interactions of genes involved in lignin metabolism with genetic background and the environment in which the low-lignin crop is cultivated are substantial. Examples are provided that demonstrate that lignin can be reduced in specific lines or populations without damaging fitness. It is concluded that it will be essential to incorporate lignin reducing genes into numerous genetic backgrounds and combinations, and evaluate the resulting lines in diverse environments, in order to discover optimal combinations and to obtain a true measure of value and fitness in agricultural systems.

Last Modified: 8/29/2014
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