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Title: USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit, St. Paul Alfalfa/Forage Research Program

item Samac, Deborah - Debby

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/16/2010
Publication Date: 11/16/2010
Citation: Samac, D.A. 2010. USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit, St. Paul Alfalfa/Forage Research Program [abstract]. In: 2010 Minnesota Forage Association Risk-Reduction Research Summit, November 16-17, 2010, St. Cloud, Minnesota. p. 6.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The Plant Science Research Unit (PSRU) located at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul receives approximately $1.5 million to fund the research of six scientists who direct their research efforts toward developing new uses and improved traits for alfalfa. Our overarching goal is to develop alfalfa with characteristics that make the crop more profitable, thereby stimulating the expansion of alfalfa acreage on farms. The project scientists are at the forefront to develop alfalfa for new uses including use of alfalfa as a source of biofuels and bioproducts. The group developed a high biomass alfalfa with taller stature, larger stems, and greater lodging resistance for use in biobased fuel production. Managed for biofuel production this new alfalfa has twice the cellulosic ethanol potential of conventional alfalfa. The PSRU has genetically engineered alfalfas to produce a number of novel biobased products such as a biodegradable plastic polymer, organic acids, and industrial enzymes. Currently the group is using the tools of genomics and biotechnology to identify key genes involved in cell wall biosynthesis in order to develop alfalfa plants that require less processing for liquid fuel production and are more easily digested by ruminant animals. PSRU scientists have been leaders in use of alfalfa in environmental engineering and phytoremediation. Nitrogen cycling research conducted by the PSRU has demonstrated that planting alfalfa over tile drainage lines significantly reduces nitrate losses from annual grown field crops like corn. Project scientists continue to improve alfalfa for livestock use. PSRU animal science and alfalfa geneticists selected alfalfa for reduced lignin and increased pectin to increase both the rate and extent of cell wall digestibility. Currently the impact of improved alfalfa fiber digestibility on feed intake, milk production, and health of dairy cows is being quantified and research is being conducted to develop alfalfa with greater yield potential and to identify genes and markers for resistance to new crown and root diseases.