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Title: The Hunt for Green Every April: Factors Affecting Fitness in Switchgrass

This grant funded work was undertaken to develop fundamental biological knowledge of the factors affecting the complex plant trait “fitness” in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), a plant being developed as a biomass crop. Using a diverse range of latitudinally-adapted switchgrass plants, genomic, molecular and physiological studies were performed to track a number of different aspects of plant genetics and physiology over the course of the growing season. Work was performed on both genetically unrelated and genetically related plants. Plants were established in the field from seedlings raised in a greenhouse, or from clones present in other field nurseries. Field grown plants were used as the source of all tissues. The three objectives of this proposal were:(1) Transcript Profiling, Metabolomics, and C and N Partitioning and Recycling in Crowns and Rhizomes of Switchgrass over two growing seasons; (2) Gene Profiling During Regreening and Dormancy of Bulked Segregants; (3) Extent of Linkage Disequilibrium in Populations for Adaptation and Fitness Traits Being Developed for Central and Northern USA, that Show Significant Heterosis. Objective 1 results: Plants were labeled using 13CO2 (a stable isotope) using an acrylic chamber constructed specifically for this purpose. Plants became labeled with 13C and label decayed in aerial tissuesmore » over the course of the growing season. Varying amounts of 13C were recovered in the rhizomes. These data are being analyzed. Plants were also labeled with 15N-urea. Plants absorbed significant amounts of label that was remobilized to the growing shoots. N-dynamics would suggest that a portion of the 15N absorbed into the crowns and rhizomes is sequestered below ground. Variable amounts of 15N were translocated from the shoots to the roots over the course of the growing season. Polar metabolites extracted from a diverse array of rhizomes were analyzed using GCMS. Data indicated that there was a significant shift in metabolite pools over the course of the growing season, and differences in the levels of specific metabolites could be linked to the progression of dormancy. Several metabolites that accumulate in dormant rhizomes were identified. Some of these metabolites could be potentially linked to winter-survival of switchgrass. Extensive high-throughput sequencing was conducted on crown and rhizome samples collected from field grown plants. Initial work was performed on a Roche 454 system. All later work was performed on an Illumina sequencing-by-synthesis system. Some of these datasets have been published as peer-reviewed papers, other data are currently being analyzed and being readied for publication. Objective 2 results: Genetically related but phenotypically divergent plants from an octaploid switchgrass population were grown in a replicated field nursery. Rhizomes were harvested at four different times over the course of the growing season from plants with high winter survival and those with lower winter survival. RNA-Seq was performed on harvested materials. Initial analysis suggests that plants with lowered winter survival experience a greater level of cellular stress in dormant tissues. This aspect of plant function is being probed in greater depth. Objective 3 results: A total of 592 individual clones with three clonal replications in a randomized complete block design from each of five populations used in Objective 1 studies were rated for heading date in 2012 and 2014, green-up day of year in 2013, anthesis date in 2012, and yield in 2012, they were also subjected to NIR spectroscopy to derive cell wall composition estimates based on prior NIR calibrations. Plants were genotyped via a genotyping by sequencing (GBS) approach from reduced representation libraries constructed with adaptors that identified each individual. Libraries generated with the restriction enzyme PstI and called SNPs using Samtools after alignment to version 1.1 of the switchgrass genome sequence. A total of approximately 40,000 SNPs were found. These were then further filtered to eliminate markers with a minor allele frequency of < 0.05. The results of population analysis using STRUCTURE with expected population sizes or cluster numbers (K), clearly shows the hybrid composition of the KxS population and discriminated easily between upland (Summer) and lowland (Kanlow) populations. Under an assumption of 5 distinct populations there were detectable differences in allele frequencies between subpopulations within the three Kanlow populations particularly with respect to Kanlow EM and Kanlow base. We detected 110 SNPs with an allele frequency difference of ≥ 0.2 between Kanlow EM and Kanlow base populations, while 120 SNPs showed an allele frequency difference of ≥ 0.15 between Kanlow N1 and Kanlow base populations. These data are being readied for publication.« less
  1. US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), Lincoln, NE (United States). Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Wheat, Sorghum and Forage Research
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), Lincoln, NE (United States). Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Switchgrass; Genomics; Feedstocks; winter-survival; RNA-Seq; metabolomics; C/N remobilization; genotype-by-sequencing; linkage disequilibrium; regreening; bulked segregants