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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit » Research » Research Project #434578

Research Project: Development of Genetic, Genomic and Molecular Resources to Improve Performance, Adaptability and Utility of Cool Season Grasses and Cover Crops

Location: Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit

Project Number: 2072-21000-054-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Feb 1, 2019
End Date: Jan 31, 2024

The long-term objective of this project is to improve the performance of grasses and cover crops. Specifically, during the next five years we will focus on the following objectives. Objective 1: Develop cover crops with increased performance and adaptability in end use environments. • Sub-objective 1A: Develop tools to select for acidic soil syndrome tolerant plants and breed tolerant annual ryegrass germplasm. (Hayes) • Sub-objective 1B: Improve annual ryegrass winter cover crop germplasm for reliable spring termination. (Hayes, Martin) Objective 2: Identify disease resistant germplasm in cool season grass species. • Sub-objective 2A: Evaluate grass cultivars (cvs) for susceptibility to Barley Yellow Dwarf Viruses. (Dombrowski, Martin) • Sub-objective 2B: Identify and evaluate choke resistant germplasm in orchardgrass. (Dombrowski, Martin) • Sub-objective 2C: Develop stem rust resistant germplasm and breeding tools in perennial ryegrass and determine the potential durability of resistance. (Hayes) Objective 3: Isolate endophytes from grasses found in arid regions to identify novel endophytes that improve persistence and performance of forage and turf related grasses in environments with limited water resources. Objective 4: Develop genetic and molecular resources that can be applied to reduce the impact of abiotic stresses on the adaptability and performance of grasses in diverse environments. • Sub-objective 4A: Sequence and annotate Lolium sp. genome for development of a public genome database. (Dombrowski, Martin) • Sub-objective 4B: Identify genes or pathways common to stress responses in multiple types of abiotic stress. (Dombrowski, Martin) • Sub-objective 4C: Evaluate Brachypodium overexpressing transcription factors for improved abiotic stress tolerance. (Dombrowski, Martin)

Forage, turf, and cover crop species are critical components of sustainable landscapes and agroecosystems. Most of the cool season grass seed in the United States is grown in the Pacific Northwest due to the mild winters and dry summers that are ideal for grass seed production. Development of adaptable, high-yielding, animal-compatible, low-input grass and cover crop cultivars are needed to enhance the utility of these crops in environments different from those of the Pacific Northwest, to expand their market potential, and meet the goals of improved food security. The challenges to the grass industry require a multifaceted research approach to develop genetic resources for improved adaptability and stress tolerance in grasses and cover crops to accelerate the pace of cultivar development. The research in this project will develop new selection techniques and breed germplasm of annual ryegrass with enhanced tolerance to acid soil syndrome and reliable spring termination when used as a cover crop (Objective 1). New grass germplasm, quantitative trait loci (QTL), and molecular markers linked to resistance QTL will be identified in order to reduce the impact of the diseases stem rust, choke and barley yellow dwarf virus on crop performance (Objective 2). The project will identify novel endophytes from grasses found in arid regions and test their ability to improve persistence and performance of forage and turf related grasses in environments with limited water resources (Objective 3). Transcriptome and whole genome sequencing along with gene function studies will develop the genetic and molecular resources needed to accelerate the breeding of new grass cultivars with improved performance. The development of biological, genetic, genomic and molecular resources from this project will lead to improved performance, adaptability and utility of cool season grasses and cover crops in diverse end use environments.