Sustainable Agriculture News

Redesigning Reed Canary-Grass as a Bioenergy feedstock

Perennial grasses are excellent candidates for bioenergy feedstock production, especially long-lived grasses with broad adaptation, such as reed canarygrass. However, 40 years of breeding reed canarygrass for use in pastures has resulted in cultivars with severely modified alkaloid profiles, making them acceptable to livestock but less acceptable for bioenergy.

University of Arkansas Extension Wild germplasm with high alkaloid concentrations therefore represents the best source of germplasm to develop dedicated cultivars for bioenergy feedstock production.

In a study in the September-October 2015 issue of Crop Science, researchers report on field studies that document genetic variation for numerous biomass quality traits within a population of wild reed canarygrass accessions.

The team demonstrated that desired improvements in biomass quality - which will, in turn, improve conversion efficiency - will require a focused effort on a small number of biomass quality traits in the breeding program. For example, a thermo-chemical conversion platform, designed to produce heat or pyrolysis products, would require high biomass yield, low ash, and high energy content.

A fermentation platform for producing liquid transportation fuels, on the other hand, would require high biomass yield and low lignin.

Numerous wild accessions were superior to existing cultivars in biomass yield and quality, indicating that breeding dedicated cultivars for energy production is feasible.

Source: International Journal of Agriculture Sustainability