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Devos part of team to unlock switchgrass genome

Alan Flurry

As reported Jan. 27 in Nature, a nationwide team that includes UGA faculty member Katrien Devos has produced a high-quality reference sequence of the complex switchgrass genome, marking a critical step for a plant species that has long been studied for its potential application in the production of biofuels.

The team was led by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science user facility located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Building off this work, researchers at all four DOE Bioenergy Research Centers—the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, the Center for Bioenergy Innovation, the Center for Advanced Bioenergy & Bioproducts Institute and the Joint BioEnergy Institute—are exploring genetic improvements to switchgrass to customize the crop for additional end products.

“Having a high-quality reference genome is essential to quickly make genetic advances in a crop,” said Devos, Distinguished Research Professor with joint appointments in crop and soil sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and plant biology in the  Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “Understanding the genetics of latitudinal adaptation is key to being able to breed switchgrass varieties suitable for cultivation across broader areas. But the importance of the switchgrass assembly goes far beyond the current study—we now have the tools to also look at other traits affecting the yield and composition of switchgrass biomass for bioenergy production.”


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