Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Prairie cordgrass: Highly underrated

27.06.2012
When D.K. Lee and Lane Rayburn, faculty members in the crop sciences department at the University of Illinois, talk about prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata) they have difficulty containing their enthusiasm. They are among the very few people doing research on this grass as a potential energy crop.
According to Lee, switchgrass has been studied extensively as a forage crop and a dedicated energy crop. Recently this research has been extended to big bluestem, indiangrass, and other native grasses. Prairie cordgrass has received comparatively little attention because, unlike the others, it is not a good forage crop. “The cow has a preference; this grass is coarse and not good for grazing,” Lee said.

However, as interest in energy crops and in feedstock production for cellulosic biofuels increases, prairie cordgrass is receiving more attention because it grows well on marginal land. “It likes environments that are too wet for row crop production.” Lee explained.

He and his colleagues in the Energy Biosciences Institute, of which the U of I is a partner, are giving prairie cordgrass this increased attention as a biofuel source plant.

Many conservationists are also interested in the grass. “One of the characteristics of this grass is that it has a strong rhizome and root system,” explained Lee. Thus, it is good for erosion control and conservation, particularly in riparian areas because it is a species that likes water.

Another important characteristic of Spartina pectinata is salt tolerance. Lee planted prairie cordgrass in west Texas in fields that could no longer be used for crop production because they had been irrigated with salty ground water. “It actually grew pretty well; the farmer was shocked,” he said. Soil salinity is a problem in much of the marginal land throughout the world.

It also has good cold tolerance. Although it is a warm-season grass, it starts growing in mid-March like a cool-season grass. Its growing season is longer than that of corn, allowing it to accumulate high biomass.

Rayburn said that what makes it perfect as a biomass grass is that it is a native species with no invasiveness issues associated with it. “If I’m going to work with an energy crop, I want to bring something in that, environmentally and ecologically, I don’t have to worry about,” he said.

“It’s a great plant,” added Rayburn. “We know how to control it, it gives good biomass, and it grows on marginal land.”

Lee and Rayburn wanted to know where the grass grows and whether it was all the same. Lee traveled over 10,000 miles around the country collecting more than 130 natural populations. He and his group then looked at the DNA and the ploidy level, which is the number of sets of chromosomes.

They found many differences. For example, the prairie cordgrass in South Dakota was mostly octoploid (eight sets of chromosomes) while the Illinois grass tended to be tetraploid (four sets). Then, to their surprise, they found a mixed-ploidy population comprising tetraploids and (previously unknown) hexaploids (six sets of chromosomes) at a single location in Illinois.

Lee said that, for biomass production, this newly discovered hexaploid is in the top five of his collection. “A lot of people want to have access to this thing, but I’m still keeping it in my house,” he said. The Energy Biosciences Institute is hoping to patent the variety. Lee’s ‘Savoy’ cultivar has recently been patented.

Rayburn said that finding the hexaploid “was like catching a snapshot of evolution.” The area where the hexaploid was found is a piece of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land that has not been farmed for 20 years, meaning that the polyploidy event occurred quite recently.

Rayburn and Lee describe their collaboration as “a perfect combination.” Lee is focusing on developing a better cultivar with good agronomic traits. Rayburn is interested in how the hexaploid evolved. “What he does helps me in my studies of how the plant evolved; what I do helps him in his studies on improving it,” said Rayburn, “and he’s fun to work with.”

The Energy Biosciences Institute, funded by the energy company BP, is a research collaboration that includes the University of Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It is dedicated to applying the biological sciences to the challenges of producing sustainable, renewable energy for the world.

The research is described in more detail in the following articles:
Kim, S.M., A.L. Rayburn, and D.K. Lee. 2010. “Genome Size and Chromosome Analysis in Prairie Cordgrass (Spartina pectinata L.).” Crop Science 50:2277-2282.

Kim, S.M., A.L. Rayburn, A. Parrish, and D.K. Lee. 2012. “Cytogeographic Distribution and Genome Size Variation in Prairie Cordgrass (Spartina pectinata Bosc ex Link).” Plant Molecular Biology Reporter (in press, online first).

Kim, S.M., A.L. Rayburn, A. Boe, and D.K. Lee. 2012. “Neopolyploidy in Spartina pectinata Link: 1. Morphological Analysis of Tetraploid and Hexaploid Plants in a Mixed Natural Population.” Plant Systematic and Evolution (in press, online first).

Kim, S.M., A.L. Rayburn, T. Voigt, A. Parrish and D.K. Lee. 2012. “Salinity effects on germination and plant growth of prairie cordgrass and switchgrass.” Bioenergy Research 5: 225-235.

Susan Jongeneel | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Abrupt motion sharpens x-ray pulses

Spectrally narrow x-ray pulses may be “sharpened” by purely mechanical means. This sounds surprisingly, but a team of theoretical and experimental physicists developed and realized such a method. It is based on fast motions, precisely synchronized with the pulses, of a target interacting with the x-ray light. Thereby, photons are redistributed within the x-ray pulse to the desired spectral region.

A team of theoretical physicists from the MPI for Nuclear Physics (MPIK) in Heidelberg has developed a novel method to intensify the spectrally broad x-ray...

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New 3-D imaging reveals how human cell nucleus organizes DNA and chromatin of its genome

28.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heavy metals in water meet their match

28.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Oestrogen regulates pathological changes of bones via bone lining cells

28.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>