At the GLBRC, Plants researchers are developing the next generation of biomass-trait-improved crops. Because crops will continue to be grown for food and feed in the future, research focused on enhancing plants with desirable energy traits must be pursued without sacrificing grain yield and quality.
Ralph’s program is aimed at decreasing plant cell wall recalcitrance to processing and improving plant value to the biorefinery, largely by: detailing lignin structure, chemistry, and reactions; delineating the effects of perturbing lignin biosynthetic pathways; ‘redesigning’ lignins in planta to...
Brandizzi is a professor in the Michigan State University-U.S. Department of Energy (MSU-DOE) Plant Research Laboratory, and brings over 15 years of academic research experience to her role at GLBRC. Prior to coming to Michigan, Brandizzi was an associate professor...
GLBRC Plants research is highly genomics-focused. Although most plants used in agriculture have been selected for improved production of food or fiber, future bioenergy crops will have different characteristics, including high-energy yield per hectare, ease of conversion to fuels, and agricultural sustainability. Thus, while the Center's long-term efforts focus primarily on dedicated bioenergy crops such as perennial grasses and short-rotation woody species, improving basic traits in all biomass-relevant crops including the grain annuals is a priority.
Plants research projects fall under three general categories:
- Reducing lignocellulosic biomass recalcitrance through plant cell wall modification
- Improving the value of the biomass grown for bioenergy production
- Integrating these and other beneficial traits into bioenergy crops that exhibit improved nutrient use and stress tolerance for sustainable, perennialized production
Altering carbon allocation in hybrid poplar (Populus alba × grandidentata) impacts cell wall growth and development
Degradation of lignin β-aryl ether units in Arabidopsis thaliana expressing LigD, LigF and LigG from Sphingomonas paucimobilis SYK-6
Flowering time is a major determinant of biomass yield in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a perennial bioenergy crop, because later flowering allows for an extended period of vegetative growth and increased biomass production. A better understanding of the genetic regulation of flowering time in switchgrass will aid the development of switchgrass varieties with increased biomass yields, particularly at northern latitudes, where late-flowering but southern-adapted varieties have high winter mortality. We use genotypes derived from recently published exome-capture sequencing, which mitigates challenges related to the large, highly repetitive and polyploid switchgrass genome, to perform genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using flowering time data from a switchgrass association panel in an effort to characterize the genetic architecture and genes underlying flowering time regulation in switchgrass. We identify associations with flowering time at multiple loci, including in a homolog of FLOWERING LOCUS T and in a locus containing TIMELESS, a homolog of a key circadian regulator in animals. Our results suggest that flowering time variation in switchgrass is due to variation at many positions across the genome. The relationship of flowering time and geographic origin indicates likely roles for genes in the photoperiod and autonomous pathways in generating switchgrass flowering time variation.