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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Research Project #434376

Research Project: Genetic Improvement of Sugarcane for Adaptation to Temperate Climates

Location: Sugarcane Research

Project Number: 6052-21000-016-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 1, 2018
End Date: Jul 31, 2023

1. Breed new sugarcane cultivars and improved germplasm with superior agronomic traits, adaptation to variable weather conditions, and increased abiotic and biotic stress tolerance including cold-tolerance. 1.A. Develop improved sugarcane cultivars utilizing parental germplasm derived from the SRU’s germplasm enhancement program (sub-objective 1.B.) that possess highly desirable traits. 1.B. Characterize and broaden the genetic base of Saccharum to support both sugarcane breeding for commercial cultivars, with specific emphasis on adaptation to temperate environments, disease resistance, and sugar content. 2. Develop and deploy clone-and trait-specific genetic markers for sugarcane, and work with breeders to accelerate breeding and release improved sugarcane cultivars and germplasm.

The program’s breeding strategy is to increase the genetic diversity of parental clones through: (1) acquisition and maintenance of germplasm from wild species of Saccharum and related genera; (2) characterization of parents and progeny for traits (cold tolerance, stubbling ability, disease resistance, and sugarcane borer resistance) that will increase the adaptation of sugarcane to Louisiana’s temperate climate; (3) utilization of crossing and molecular marker techniques to produce interspecific and intergeneric hybrids containing new sources of disease and insect resistance and cold tolerance; and (4) recombination of progeny through backcrossing to develop parental material containing a concentration of desirable genes for the commercial breeding program. Screening procedures will be developed to determine relative cold tolerance among clonal material in the basic breeding program. Cultivar development will emphasize increased sugar yield, along with other import traits such as yield components (stalk number, height, and diameter), fiber concentration, rate of maturation, ratooning ability (stand longevity), harvestability (resistance to lodging, stalk erectness, and stalk brittleness), hardiness (winter survival, early spring vigor, and stalk and ratoon freeze tolerance), abiotic stress tolerance (droughts, floods, and heavy clay soils), and resistance to stalk boring insects (sugarcane borer and Mexican rice borer) and diseases (smut, rust, leaf scald, mosaic, yellow leaf virus, and ratoon stunting). Recurrent selection techniques will be utilized to accelerate the rate of genetic improvement for these important traits. In addition, trait-specific markers closely associated with traits such as sucrose accumulation, cold tolerance, and resistance to the sugarcane borer will be developed to assist breeders in eliminating undesirable plants early in the selection process.