Switchgrass hybrid yields insights into plant evolution

Switchgrass is attractive as a potential bioenergy crop because it can grow for years without having to be replanted. Requiring less fertilizer than typical annual crops like corn, switchgrass can keep more nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon in the soil and out of our air and waterways. But, unlike corn, breeding of switchgrass for optimal traits is still in its early stages.

Now, in a collaboration with the US Department of Energy (DOE), the Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility and the University of Texas at Austin, Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center researchers at Michigan State University have identified specific parts of genetic code within the plant that could contribute to larger switchgrass harvests while reducing potential crop weaknesses.                        

David Lowry, assistant professor of plant biology at MSU, and Thomas Juenger, professor of integrative biology at UT Austin, led a team that identified genes that boost switchgrass growth across a wide range of climates – and that these plants can...

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