Breeding and biotechnology perspectives in miscanthus

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Breeding and biotechnology perspectives in miscanthus

By


Uffe Jørgensen, Aarhus Universitet, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (DJF), Department of
Agroecology and Environment, Research Centre Foulum, P.O. Box 50, DK
-
8830, De
nmark,
uffe.jorgensen@agrsci.dk


The perennial C4
-
grass miscanthus, which originates from Eastern Asia, became of
major interest as a potential biomass crop in Europe during the 1990s due to its high
product
ivity even in cool Northern European conditions (Beale & Long, 1995; Jones &
Walsh, 2001).

European research has resulted in a well
-
characterised gene pool, basic knowledge
achieved on QTLs to assist in Marker Aided Selection programmes, a preliminary
tra
nsformation protocol, and candidate genes. The next step of developing improved
miscanthus crops adapted to a range of pedoclimatic conditions, and with improved
yields, convertibility, etc. should be ready to take.

Species from the genus
Mi
s
canthus
are am
ongst the most cold
-
tolerant C
4
-
species due to the
protection of photosystem II by a many
-
fold increase of the leaf zeaxanthin content at
temperatures below 14

C (Farage et al, 2006).
Like other perennial grasses miscanthus has a
low environmental impact.

Nitrate leaching is, for example, as low as from willow and almost
comparable to forests and natural areas even when optimally fertilised (Jø
r
gensen, 2005).
Although

very large initial miscanthus projects were conducted they were almost restricted to
one
genotype, namely the sterile, triploid, interspecific hybrid
M. x giganteus
, and ran into
significant problems with low first winter survival and prohibitively high costs of vegetative
establishment (Jørgensen & Schwarz, 2000).

Several EU
-
projects on scre
ening of the genetic base (Clifton
-
Brown et al., 2001; Jørgensen et
al., 2003a; Lewandowski et al., 2003) and on developing breeding methods including
molecular markers, chromosome doubling (
Atienza et al., 2003a
-
d; Petersen et al., 2002;
2003
) and genetic

transformation (not published) were, therefore, conducted.
Miscanthus
gen
o
types have shown a wide variation in Radiation Use Efficiencies (Jørgensen et al., 2003b),
which indicates a breeding potential for this crop similar to that achieved in willow.
Add
itionally, the co
n
tent of minerals such as chloride and potassium in miscanthus straw,
which is important for determining combustion quality, may vary 10
-
fold b
e
tween gen
o
types
(Jørgensen, 1997).

Problems during the 1990s with establishing Miscanthus have
more or less been overcome due
to an understanding of the causes (climate x genetics) and to the development of new planting
methods that have also cut establishment costs by approx.
80% (Clifton
-
Brown &
Lewandowski, 2000; Jø
r
gensen & Schwarz, 2000). The D
anish company Nordic Biomass
(
www.nordicbiomass.dk
) now carries out commercial establishments of miscanthus. However,

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improving methods of establishment and reducing costs are still important development goals,
and e.g. establishment from seed may be an option worth pursuing.

The latest EU framework programmes have not included research on miscanthus, whereas
research in the US has increased due to i.e. reports on yields way beyond those of switchgrass
(Heaton et

al., 2004; 2008).
Much attention has been given to the utilisation of miscanthus for
ethanol, which may be possible but will be hampered by the significant 20
-
30% lignin content
when harvesting mature straw (Visser & Pignatelli, 2001). To improve biologic
al degradation of
miscanthus fibres before ethanol conversion several biotechnological approaches have been
proposed. One method now exploited in wheat, which may be replicated in miscanthus, is to
introduce a xylanase gene from heat
-
tolerant bacteria into

the genetic material of the plant.
Xylanase breaks down the linkages between arabinoxylan and lignin in the plant fibres, but is
due to its origin from heat tolerant bacteria not active until temperatures of approx. 80
o
C
imposed during the production of
bioethanol (Mathrani et al., 1992).

The research on miscanthus in Europe has amassed a large gene pool including several
species, hundreds of genotypes within species, and well characterised populations of offspring
from crosses.
The first commercial new b
reeds are now available (
www.tinplant
-
gmbh.de
).

References

Atienza, S.G., Satovic, Z., Petersen, K.K., Dolstra, O. & Martín, A., 2003a. Identification of
QTLs associated with yield and its components in Miscant
hus sinensis Anderss. Euphytica
132, 353
-
361.

Atienza, S.G., Satovic, Z., Petersen, K.K., Dolstra, O. & Martín, A., 2003b. Identification of
QTLs influencing agronomic traits in Miscanthus sinensis Anderss. II. Chlorine and
pota
s
sium conte
nt.
-

Theor. Appl. Genet. 107, 857
-
863.

Atienza, S.G., Satovic, Z., Petersen, K.K., Dolstra, O. & Martín, A., 2003c. Identification of
QTLs influencing agr
o
nomic traits in Miscanthus sinensis Anderss. I. Total height, flag
-
leaf height and
stem diameter.
-

Theor. Appl. Genet. 107, 123
-
129.

Atienza, S.G., Satovic, Z., Petersen, K.K., Dolstra, O. & Martín, A., 2003d. Influencing
co
m
bustion quality in Miscanthus sinensis Anderss.: Identification of QTLs for calcium,
phosph
o
rus
and sulphur content. Plant Breeding 122, 141
-
145.

Beale CV & Long SP. 1997. Seasonal dynamics of nutrient accumulation and partitioning in the
perennial C
4
-
grasses
Miscanthus x giganteus

and
Spartina cynosuroides.
Biomass and
Bioenergy
12: 419
-
428.

Clifton
-
Brown, J.C., Lewandowski, I., 2000. Overwintering problems of newly established
Miscanthus plantations can be overcome by identifying genotypes with improved rhizome
cold tolerance. New Phytologist 148, 287
-
294.

Clifton
-
Brown, J.C., Lewan
dowski, I., Andersson, B., Basch, G., Christian, D.G., Kjel
d
sen, J.B.,
Jorgensen, U., Mortensen, J.V., Riche, A.B., Schwarz, K.
-
U., Tayebi, K. & Teixeira, F.,
2001. Performance of 15 Miscanthus Genotypes at Five Sites in Europe. Agronomy
Journal 93, 1013
-
1
019.

Farage, P.K., Blowers, D., Long, S.P. & Baker, N.R. Low growth temperatures modify the
e
f
ficiency of light use by photosystem II for CO
2

assimilation in leaves of two chilling
-
tolerant C
4

species,
Cyperus longus

L. and
Miscanthus x giganteus
. Plant, C
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environment 29, 720
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728.

Heaton E., Voigt T. & Long S.P., 2004. A quantitative review comparing the yields of two
candidate C
-
4 perennial biomass crops in relation to nitrogen, temperature and water.
Biomass & Bioenergy
,
27
, 21
-
30.

Heaton, E.A., D
ohleman, F.G., Long, S. P, 2008.

Meeting US biofuel goals with less land: the
potential of Miscanthus. Global Change

Biology, 14, 2000
-
2014
.


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Jones, M.B. & Walsh, M. (eds.), 2001. Miscanthus for energy and fibre. James & James,
London, 192 pp.

Jørgensen, U
., 1997. Genotypic variation in dry matter accumulation and content of N, K, and
Cl in Miscanthus in Denmark. Biomass and Bioenergy 12,(3),155
-
169 pp.

Jørgensen U., 2005. How to
reduce nitrate leaching by production of perennial energy crops?
In: Zhu Z, Mi
nami K and Xing G (eds.):
3rd International Nitrogen Conference.
Contributed Papers. Science Press, NJ, USA. p.
513
-
518
.

Jørgensen, U., Mortensen, J., Kjeldsen, J.B. & Schwarz, K.U., 2003a.
Establishment,
develo
p
ment and yield quality of fifteen miscanthus

genotypes over three years in
Denmark. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B
-

Plant Soil Science 53, 190
-
199.

Jørgensen, U., Mortensen, J. & Ohlsson, C., 2003b. Light interception and dry matter
conve
r
sion efficiency of misca
n
thus ge
notypes estimated from spectral reflectance
measurements.
New Phytologist 157, 263
-
270.

Jørgensen, U. & Schwarz, K.
-
U., 2000.
Why do basic research? A lesson from comme
r
cial
exploitation of Miscanthus. New Phytologist 148, 190
-
193.

Lewando
wski, I., Clifton
-
Brown, J.C., Andersson, B., Basch, G., Christian, D.G., Jø
r
gensen, U.,
Jones, M.B., Riche, A.B., Schwarz, K.U., Tayebi, K. & Teixeira, F., 2003. Environment and
harvest time affects the combustion qualities of Miscanthus genotypes. Agrono
my Jou
r
nal
95, 1274
-
1280.

Mathrani, I. M. and B. K. Ahring, 1992. Thermophilic and Alkalophilic Xylanases from Several
Dictyoglomus
-
Isolates. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 38 (1): 23
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Petersen, K.K., Hagberg, P. & Kristiansen, K., 2002.
In vit
ro

chromosome doubling of
Miscanthus sinensis
. Plant Breeding. 121:445
-
450..

Petersen, K.K., Hagberg, P. & Kristiansen, K., 2003. Colchicine and oryzalin mediated
chr
o
mosome doubling in different genotypes of Miscanthus sinensis. Plant Cell, Tiss. Org.
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-
146.

Visser, P. & Pignatelli, V., 2001. Utilisation of Miscanthus. In: Jones, M.B. & Walsh, M. (eds.),
2001. Miscanthus for energy and fibre. James & James, London, 192 pp.