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CABBI researchers sequence miscanthus genome, explore bioenergy potential

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An international research team has sequenced the full genome of an ornamental variety of miscanthus, a wild perennial grass emerging as a prime candidate for sustainable bioenergy crops.

The genome project, led by scientists at the Centre for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI), a US Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centre, provides a ‘roadmap’ for researchers exploring new avenues to maximise the plant’s productivity and determine the genetic basis for its desirable traits.

Miscanthus grasses, also used in gardens, paper production, and roofing, are a ‘promising’ source of biomass, according to CABBI. They belong to the Andropogoneae family of grasses, which includes maize, sugarcane, and sorghum – highly productive and important plants grown as a source of food, feed, and biofuels.

Miscanthus is adaptable and easy to grow. It can thrive on marginal lands, requires limited fertilisation, and has a high tolerance for drought and cool temperatures.

CABBI’s sequence and genomic analysis of Miscanthus sinensis – the first for any type of miscanthus – provides a foundation for systematic improvements to optimise those ‘desirable traits’.

Kankshita Swaminathan, faculty investigator at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, said: “The genomic toolkit we have assembled for miscanthus will be a valuable resource for researchers studying this plant and breeding it to improve biomass and other traits.

“By comparing miscanthus with sorghum, sugarcane, and other related grasses, researchers within CABBI and beyond hope to decipher the genetic basis for innovations linked to productivity and adaptability.”

More information on the research can be found on the CABBI website.