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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Canal Point, Florida » Sugarcane Field Station » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #233347

Title: Challenges and opportunities for developing bioenergy grasses in the Canal Point breeding program

item Glynn, Neil
item Comstock, Jack

Submitted to: Sugarcane Engineering Workshop
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/20/2008
Publication Date: 10/27/2008
Citation: Glynn, N.C., Gilbert, R.A., Comstock, J.C. 2008. Challenges and opportunities for developing bioenergy grasses in the Canal Point breeding program. Sugarcane Engineering Workshop.

Interpretive Summary: Sugarcane and indeed tropical grasses in general are well recognized as having potential for the development of biofuels. This is primarily due to the increased biomass production by these grasses over others. However traditional sugarcane cultivars that store sugars in the stalk likely have negative affects on the cellulosic conversion to ethanol, the requirement therefore is to increase fiber and biomass whilst reducing sugars. The Canal Point program is in a prime position to capitalize on this recent increased interest in biofuels in part due to the experience of breeders in utilizing wild grasses many of which fit the profile of a good biofuel variety (high fiber low sugars and high biomass). The Canal Point sugarcane variety development program has a long established record of releasing sugarcane cultivars for sucrose production well adapted to the growing conditions of South Florida. Several of the cultivars developed for the conditions of South Florida have also proved to be well adapted to environments in Central America. Many successful cultivars produced by the Canal Point program have been used in the breeding programs of other industries something that reflects both the quality of the cultivars and the tradition of the program of sharing breeding material internationally. Although the primary breeding strategy of the program is one of recurrent selection where successful cultivars are used as parents in crosses to produce new varieties, each year breeders at Canal Point make wide crosses involving accessions of true Saccharum spp. in order to integrate novel genes from these wild germplasm. This review will summarize the progress made in developing wide cross populations at Canal Point, molecular genetic analyses that have been conducted on the material and recent efforts to evaluate their potential as sources of biofuels within the Canal Point variety development program.

Technical Abstract: Due to the proximity of Canal Point to the sugarcane world collection (a collection of wild grasses within the Saccharum and related grass complexes) the program has the potential to improve biofuel traits by utilizing these novel sources of diversity rapidly as there is no quarantine restrictions on transferring these materials from Miami to Canal Point. Research aimed at improving our understanding of pathways related to the partitioning of sucrose and other assimilates in sugarcane will benefit both the development of traditional sugarcane varieties for sucrose and also the potential development of tropical grasses for bioenergy.