Optimising the development of the energy grass Miscanthus through manipulation of flowering time

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Unlisted

Abstract

Biomass from energy crops are an important part of the renewable energy mix. Miscanthus is a perennial grass which combines the fast growth rate of a tropical grass with a tolerance to grow at UK temperatures. It requires little to no fertiliser or herbicide inputs and produces a high yield of biomass every year. However as Miscanthus is a new crop, previous research has been extremely limited. This proposal seeks to start addressing this deficit by investigating the molecular basis of flowering by exploiting knowledge in model organisms such as Arabidopsis thaliana, rice and maize. The commercially grown variety of Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), is a naturally occurring hybrid between two species, M. sacchariflorus and M. sinensis. However flowering appears to be controlled differently in the parental species so that M. sacchariflorus flowers when the daylength is less than 12 hours but M. sinensis flowers when sufficient warm days have been experienced. The hybrid only very rarely flowers under UK conditions and is sterile. In this project we aim to identify the genes most likely to be involved in flowering time in the two parents of Miscanthus x giganteus. Research on model organisms has identified over 40 genes implicated in flowering time and the equivalent genes in Miscanthus will be identified and tested for an equivalent role. This will enable the development of DNA-based molecular markers for flowering which can be used in the UK Miscanthus breeding programme. Use of molecular markers will help with the optimisation and prediction of flowering time in young plants rather than having to wait three years for plants to gain maturity. It will also help in the selection of parent plants for new crosses. The information gained from this project will help to increase biomass yields in Miscanthus more quickly and efficiently.

Publications


10 25 50