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Miscanthus germplasm collection from the Far East - NF0436

Miscanthus is a tall perennial rhizomatous grass that has been identified as having strong potential as a biomass crop (Jones & Walsh, 2001). The genus Miscanthus originates in E. Asia (Hodkinson et al., 2002). It has been shown to grow well in cool temperate climates and is of particular interest because it utilises C4 photosynthesis and so has a high radiation, nitrogen, and water use efficiency compared with most C3 plants (Beale & Long, 1995; Beale & Long, 1997; Beale et al., 1999). Productivity trials testing a number of Miscanthus genotypes have been established in Sweden, Denmark, England, Germany and Portugal, and have shown the potential for high yields (Clifton-Brown et al., 2001). Although Miscanthus genotypes have produced high yields in many sites, further development of the crop is needed to spread the genetic risk associated with an over emphasis on the triploid M x giganteus. To this aim, some selection and breeding for Europe began in the 1990s in Germany (Deuter & Abraham, 1998), and a breeding programme was established with Defra funding in 2004

In the UK, new Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) compliant collections of Miscanthus germplasm were made by Kew Royal Botanical Gardens and ADAS over the past 9 years. These collections are useful, but many accessions were selected by taxonomists seeking botanical diversity, rather than the agronomic diversity needed by a breeding programme. The principal agronomic traits we are seeking to include are plant height, stem diameter at the base and stem density under a wide range of climatic and environmental conditions.

We aim to make collections of vigorous Miscanthus sinensis, M. sacchariflorus (in China often classified as Triarrhena), M. floridulus and M. transmorrisonensis in China, Japan and Taiwan during the autumn 2006 and winter 2006/2007. This will greatly benefit the genetic improvement of miscanthus by introduction of superior agronomic traits. With each accession we will record the precise collection co-ordinates, morphological traits and ecological niche. A scaled overview and any interesting features of each accession will be photographed at the time of collection. Where seed is collectable, then this will be subject to normal IGER accession procedures. Where seed is not collected, but the plant scores well agronomically, we plan to ship portions of rhizomes and /or stem bases to quarantine in IGER.

The emphasis of this project will be on germplasm from China, since very promising agronomic traits (plant height, stem diameter and overwintering capacity) have been reported from the Miscanthus sacchariflorus (Triarrhena) species in field trials in Braunschweig in Germany. Furthermore these genotypes are diploid, thus simplifying breeding genetics. We have made contact with experts and a germplasm collection in China with a view to collecting material. We are aiming to collect 100 accessions with diverse agronomic traits from 10 sites in China between September 2006 and February 2007 (to maximise the chances of seed collection).

Natural hybridisation of M. sacchariflorus and a specific type of M. sinensis 'condensatus' is reported in the Japanese literature (Matumura, 1986). The highly productive clone M. x giganteus was collected from central Japan in the 1930's We will collect M sacc, condensatus and natural hybrids from this area, which will provide valuable genetic material and clarify under what conditions natural hybridisation occurs with a view to improving the efficiency of breeding.

A series of Taiwanese publications report apomixes in M. sinensis. Apomixis (here defined as agamospermy, i.e. asexual reproduction via seeds) is a trait which would be highly valuable within the breeding programme, since it might allow fairly uniform seed production of Miscanthus as is found in cereals. This could lead to a large drop in the currently high establishment costs associated with planting M. x giganteus rhizomes. Furthermore, literature reports some of the most isolated Miscanthus populations on Taiwanese islands and therefore are important centres of pure genetic diversity.
The general objective is to obtain key genetic resources for breeding high yielding and quality biomass varieties for the UK and Europe from source in Asia.

Specific objectives
1. To establish institutional links between IGER and research institutes in China, Japan and Taiwan with interests in Miscanthus.
2. To liaise with partner institutes and Government officials to obtain permission to export germplasm to the UK under the rules of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
3. To organise collections of 100 new Miscanthus and Triarrhena from 10 diverse sites in China with Dr. Xi from Dong Ying vocational college by February 2007.
4. To collect at least 20 new accessions in Japan, with an emphasis on M. sinensis condensatus and tetraploid M. sacchariflorus, the pututative parents of the high yielding triploid hybrids by Feb 2007.
5. To collect at least 20 genotypes including island populations of M. sinensis and M. floridulus and M. transmorresonensis from Taiwan with Dr. Yu-Chung Chiang, National Pingtung, University of Science and Technology, Pingtung, Taiwan.
6. To raise plants collected in Asia from rhizomes and seeds. Plants from rhizomatous material will be quarantined
7. To supply new germplasm into the DEFRA funded Miscanthus breeding programme at IGER.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2006

To: 2007

Cost: £25,001
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Institute of Grassland and Environment Research (IGER)
Plant Genetic Resources              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Non-Food Crops