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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Research Project #445525

Research Project: Development of Improved Sugarcane Varieties Adapted to Temperate Climates

Location: Sugarcane Research

Project Number: 6052-21000-018-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 1, 2023
End Date: Jul 31, 2028

Objective:
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. 2. Broaden the genetic base of sugarcane and related genera to improve output-to-input ratios, yield stability, and specific adaptation to temperate environments. 3. Develop and deploy clone-and trait-specific genetic markers for marker-assisted selection of priority traits such as disease resistance to accelerate sugarcane breeding efforts.

Approach:
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, ratooning 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. A newly available, but untested handheld NIR device will be tested and calibrated to hasten in-field analysis of sugar content. Cold tolerance screening and parental evaluation will be conducted with collaborators in Starkville, MS where yearly freezes occur. Diverse genotypes will be screened for phenolic content and antioxidant activity. Cultivar development will emphasize increased sugar yield, along with other important 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, disease resistance, fiber, and cold tolerance, will be developed to assist breeders in eliminating undesirable plants early in the selection process.