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Genomic Science Program

2006 Awardee

Sorghum Biomass/Feedstock Genomics Research for Bioenergy

INVESTIGATOR(S): Rooney, W.; J. Mullet, S.Kresovich, D. Ware, P. Klein

INSTITUTION: Texas A&M University andCornell University

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Future productionof renewable transportation fuels will require a consistentsupply of biomass produced specifically for biofuelproduction. There will likely be many sources of biomassand species will be selected for their ecological fit, andtheir production and processing capability. Sorghum( Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) has the potential tobe one of the species dedicated to biomass productionbecause of its high productivity, drought tolerance,established production systems, and its geneticdiversity. Research activities to develop sorghums forbiomass production have been limited in the past. Thepurpose of this research is to use traditional andbiotechnological approaches to produce sorghum genotypeswith the genetic potential for use in bioenergyproduction.

OBJECTIVES: Within this grant period ourspecific objectives are to: (1) annotate genes, pathwaysand regulatory networks identified in the sorghum genomesequence that are important for biomass generation, and (2)identify, map and clarify the function of trait loci thatmodulate accumulation and quality of biomass in sorghum

APPROACH: (Obj. 1) Genes encoding proteinsinvolved in biochemical pathways important for biomassgeneration, and plant composition related to biofuelproduction (i.e., starch, lignin, sugar, cellulose andhemicellulose), will be identified and projected ontobiochemical pathways using the database MetaCyc. Thepathway projections will provide a baseline of informationon sorghum genes involved in biochemical pathways relatedto biomass/drought tolerance thus aiding our downstreamanalysis of QTL and traits. Moreover, the information onsorghum biochemical pathways in Gramene can be readilycompared to information on other cereals and otherorganisms via Gramene's comparative mapping tools. Thiswill help identify gaps in our current knowledge of sorghumbiochemistry and help identify pathways and genes that maybe useful to deploy in sorghum for biomass/bioenergygeneration. (Obj. 2) The goals of objective 2 will be metin two approaches. First, grain, biomass, and carbohydrateyields will be measured in a population consisting of 175recombinant inbred lines (RILs) (F 5:6 ) from thecross of BTx623 (a high yielding early flowering grainsorghum) × Rio (a high biomass sweet sorghum). Plantgrowth parameters will be analyzed to obtain a baseline fordownstream meta-analysis. These include plant height,flowering time and tillering, traits that likely modulatecarbohydrate partitioning in various tissues and totalbiomass. Traits that affect grain yield, biomass (i.e. thetissue harvest index and distribution of grain, stem, andleaf weight), the composition of structural andnon-structural carbohydrates, and the overall energy gainof the plant will be evaluated. A genetic map of thispopulation will be created and based on this map, QTLanalysis will be carried out using QTL Cartographer,Mapmaker/QTL, or a similar analysis program. Second, tall,late flowering forage sorghum hybrids have the highestpotential for total biomass generation. We are identifyinggenotypes that have high yield potential and excellentcombining potential. In parallel, a RIL population will bedeveloped by crossing tall, photoperiod sensitive lateflowering genotypes that vary in biomass accumulation toexplore the genetic basis of biomass accumulation andcomposition traits in this material. The population willbe analyzed for variation in growth characteristics (growthrate and partitioning of growth) during the extendedvegetative phase, for variation in lodging, total biomassand components of biomass related to biofuel production asdescribed above for the BTx623 × Rio population. This information will build a baseline of data on biomassproduction in tall, late flowering sorghums that have thehighest potential for biomass production.


Name: Rooney, Bill
Phone: 979 845 2151
Fax: 979 862 1931


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