Submitted to: Plant and Animal Genome Conference
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: December 7, 2011
Publication Date: January 13, 2012
Citation: Casler, M.D. 2012. Genomics to feed a switchgrass breeding program. Plant and Animal Genome Conference. http://pag.confex.com/pag/xx/webprogram/Paper2305.html. Technical Abstract: Development of improved cultivars is one of three pillars, along with sustainable production and efficient conversion, required for dedicated cellulosic bioenergy crops to succeed. Breeding new cultivars is a long, slow process requiring patience, dedication, and motivation to realize gains and advancements that are observed only in short bursts over time. Serendipity plays a major role in plant breeding, in the form of making fortunate choices of source populations, selection criteria, population sizes, and individual plants chosen for crossing. Genomic tools represent an untapped resource for increasing the rate of gain or the rate of domestication of switchgrass as a dedicated energy crop. The switchgrass breeding program operated by USDA-ARS in Madison, WI has recently developed partnerships with numerous other research programs in an attempt to develop genomic tools for breeding switchgrass. Examples include: (1) development of single nucleotide polymorphic (SNP) markers within candidate genes that are associated with endogenous genetic variation for lignin and fermentability, (2) development of SNP markers within genes for flowering time and developmental traits for the purpose of creating reproductively compatible upland and lowland populations, and (3) development of robust and repeatable SNP marker systems and breeding methods that can be used to implement genomic selection (GS). Theoretical analyses show that GS could double the rate of improvement for complex traits such as biomass yield. Synchronizing flowering time between upland and lowland ecotypes, without sacrificing genetic diversity, would be an effective mechanism to develop superior switchgrass hybrids.