New Tool for Improving Switchgrass
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have developed a new tool for deciphering the genetics of a native prairie grass being widely studied for its potential as a biofuel. The genetic map of switchgrass, published by Christian Tobias, a molecular biologist at the ARS Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., and his colleagues, is expected to speed up the search for genes that will make the perennial plant a more viable source of bioenergy.
Switchgrass is now grown as a cattle feed and to restore depleted soils. But interest in using it as a biofuel has intensified in recent years because it can be burned to produce electricity and, like corn stalks, can be converted to ethanol. It also grows on marginal lands, is adaptable to different regions, and -- as a perennial -- does not need to be replanted each year, which means lower energy costs and less runoff.
To assemble the genetic map, the team crossed a commercial variety of switchgrass known as Kanlow with an ARS-developed variety known as Alamo to produce 238 plants. They extracted DNA from that population and assembled a map based on more than 1,000 genetic markers that could each be attributed to one parent or the other.
Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 2010-07-30 09:07