Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/14/2008
Publication Date: 7/8/2008
Citation: Dowd, P.F., Johnson, E.T. 2008. Plant Insect Resistance Genes: An Important Aspect of Sustainable Bioenergy Crop Production [Abstract]. MWA Bioenergy Forum, Peoria, IL. Bioenergy Crop Production . Meeting Abstract.
Technical Abstract: Insects are potential problems in sustainable production of biomass grasses. Historical observations under natural conditions of dispersed distribution indicate bioenergy grasses, such as switchgrass, have few problems with insects. However, insects are typically a problem when crops are grown monocultures; and publications on switchgrass establishment indicate problems with insects can occur. Enhanced fermentability of biomass grasses and resistance to insects are potentially incompatible. Improved fermentability of biomass grasses is associated with lower lignin content and less crosslinking of polymers. Lignification and polymer crosslinking are demonstrated insect resistance mechanisms. Thus, strategies to maintain insect resistance need to be developed for grasses that are altered for improved fermentability. Our studies have indicated existing switchgrass lines have highly variable resistance to insects. Representative unimproved biomass lines of switchgrass were readily fed on by insects. Some field collected lines were as susceptible to insect feeding as the biomass lines, but others were highly resistant and killed most insects within a few days. Insect resistance genes of bioenergy grasses can be identified and followed in breeding and genetic engineering. We have used bioinformatics to identify potential switchgrass insect resistance genes from existing genomic information, some of which are not associated with lignification or polymer crosslinking. Cloning and expression of these potential insect resistance genes can be used to identify the most effective insect resistance genes and gene combinations. We have the existing knowledge base and transformation capability to identify insect resistance genes from switchgrass and other biomass crops. Additional support is needed to realize this potential.