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 Six-legged livestock -- sustainable food production
11.05.2017 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

nachricht Elephant Herpes: Super-Shedders Endanger Young Animals
04.05.2017 | Universität Zürich

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: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>