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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Dairy Forage Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #269977

Title: Big bluestem gene pools in the Central and Northeastern United States

item PRICE, DAVID - University Of Wisconsin
item SALON, PAUL - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item Casler, Michael

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/15/2011
Publication Date: 1/3/2012
Citation: Price, D., Salon, P., Casler, M.D. 2012. Big bluestem gene pools in the Central and Northeastern United States. Crop Science. 52:189-200.

Interpretive Summary: Big bluestem grass is currently undergoing development as a bioenergy crop. Little is known about the range of genetic diversity that exists within the species. We used DNA markers to evaluate 110 big bluestem accessions that ranged from the central to the northeastern USA. We found that populations from the north central and northeastern USA were distinctly different from those of the central and southern Great Plains. This information provides us with a completely different gene pool from which to begin developing new varieties targeted for the eastern USA. These results will be of value to all breeders and agronomists interested in big bluestem as a forage or biofuel crop.

Technical Abstract: Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman) is a native grass of the North American tallgrass prairie, used as forage crop and under development as a biofuel feedstock. In the current study, genetic diversity was measured both among and within three groups of big bluestem populations: natural populations collected in Wisconsin, natural populations from the northeast USA, and cultivars or accessions available through various gene bank organizations. A total of 417 amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) DNA markers and six chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) regions were used for principle component analysis, analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA), Mantel tests, and haplotype analysis. Results indicate that the germplasm groups represent three distinct yet overlapping genetic pools. Partitioning of genetic variance for each of the three groups revealed a significant amount of variance among ecoregions and hardiness zones, and among populations within ecoregions and hardiness zones. Although significant, the percentage of explained variance was generally small. One exception was among populations for samples originating in the Northeast (20% of the variance). Additionally geographic distance and climatic variables were found to be correlated with genetic distance for samples originating in the Northeast. We conclude that unique germplasm of big bluestem is present outside of Great Plains, providing opportunities to increase genetic variance within current breeding germplasm and introduce new alleles affecting traits of interest.