Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Forage and Range Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #274371

Title: Native grasses for biomass

item Larson, Steven
item Jensen, Kevin
item Robins, Joseph

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/19/2011
Publication Date: 10/19/2011
Citation: Larson, S.R., Jensen, K.B., Robins, J.G. 2011. Native grasses for biomass. Meeting Abstract.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Considerable breeding and genetic research is currently dedicated to the development of warm-season perennial grasses, such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), as dedicated biomass crops. However, the Great Basin and other large regions of the western United States and World are dominated by cool-season grasses with special adaptations to salinity, drought, and other harsch conditions. A project was initiated to identify perennial grass species, genes, and traits needed for low-input biomass production in the West. Growing up to 3 m tall, Basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) is considered one of the largest native perennial grasses in western North America, but its elevated growing point is easily damaged by grazing or cutting. Creeping wildrye (Leymus triticoides) is relatively short statured (less than 1.3 m) but strongly rhizomatous grass that recovers well following grazing, cutting, or other disturbances. Creeping x basin wildrye hybrids display a combination of plant height and rhizome traits that are useful in a low-input biomass crop and provide a model system for genetic research in perennial grasses. The seasonal biomass yields and composition quality of creeping x basin wildrye species, hybrids, and experimental families were compared to other potentially useful grasses including tall wheatgrass (Thinopyrum ponticum), intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinaceae), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) over four years, with no irrigation or fertilizer, at research farms, near Logan, UT and Tetonia, ID. Tall and intermediate wheatgrasses were top entries in the first two evaluation years, averaging more than 8 Mg/ha over both sites, and up to 13 Mg/ha in the second (2009) Utah harvest. However, the single best entry in the third and fourth harvest years was a creeping x basin wildrye hybrid that averaged about 6 Mg/ha in 2010 and up to 14 Mg/ha in 2011. Genetic map analysis of the experimental creeping x basin wildrye families showed that genes controlling plant height, rhizomes, flowering, and stem thickness all contributed to biomass production. The caffeic acid O-methytransferase lignin biosynthesis gene was associated with genetic variation fiber and lignin content among progeny of the creeping x basin wildrye hybrids.