Switchgrass Genome Structure Revealed


Switchgrass is an important biofuel feedstock because it grows on marginal lands, is highly adaptable, and as a perennial does not require annual planting. The species contain a considerable amount of natural genetic diversity that can be tapped to improve traits such as biomass yield, but as a perennial breeding improved switchgrass cultivars can take several years. Breeding time can be reduced by using a technique known as marker assisted selection (MAS); however, this approach requires detailed knowledge of the species’ genome structure. Researchers at the USDA Western Regional Research Center, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, and Pennsylvania State University, supported in part by DOE, have constructed the first complete genetic map of switchgrass. The map, consisting of eighteen distinct groups of genes corresponding to each chromosome, reveals a close genetic relationship between switchgrass and the potential bioenergy grasses foxtail millet and sorghum. This new genetic tool will enable development of MAS strategies to improve switchgrass and other potential bioenergy grass species.


Okada M, Lanzatella C, Saha MC, Bouton J, Wu R, and Tobias CM. 2010. “Complete switchgrass genetic maps reveal subgenome colinearity, preferential pairing, and multilocus interactions.” Genetics 185(3):745-760.