Miscanthus, a C4 perennial grass native to Eastern Asia, is being bred to provide biomass for bioenergy and biorenewable products. Commercial expansion with the clonal hybrid M. × giganteus is limited by low multiplication rates, high establishment costs and drought sensitivity. These limitations can be overcome by breeding more resilient Miscanthus hybrids propagated by seed. Naturally occurring fast growing indigenous Miscanthus species are found in diverse environments across Eastern Asia. The natural diversity provides for plant breeders, the genetic resources to improve yield, quality, and resilience for a wide range of climates and adverse abiotic stresses. The challenge for Miscanthus breeding is to harness the diversity through selections of outstanding wild types, parents, and progenies over a short time frame to deploy hybrids that make a significant contribution to a world less dependent on fossil resources. Here are described the strategies taken by the Miscanthus breeding programme at Aberystwyth, UK and its partners. The programme built up one of the largest Miscanthus germplasm collections outside Asia. We describe the initial strategies to exploit the available genetic diversity to develop varieties. We illustrate the success of combining diverse Miscanthus germplasm and the selection criteria applied across different environments to identify promising hybrids and to develop these into commercial varieties. We discuss the potential for molecular selections to streamline the breeding process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agronomy and Crop Science