Improved establishment phase development and yield in the perennial bioenergy crop miscanthus - IND CASE

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Funding

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council: £95,042.00

Funder Project Reference(s)

BB/M016269/1
Effective start/end date01 Oct 201530 Nov 2019

Description

Low carbon technologies including bioenergy and industrial biotechnology are seen as important growth sectors within the UK economy by BIS and will need sustainable supplies of feedstock. Miscanthus is one of the main dedicated biomass crops identified as having potential in the UK and globally. Low initial yield affects the economics and GHG balance of Miscanthus and this will be addressed in the project. The project will involve research to improve the performance of Miscanthus and allow new varieties bred at IBERS to be better utilised. The project will complement and enhance Terravesta's plans to roll out seed-based Miscanthus hybrids to deliver biomass in the UK market producing up to 22TWH with a current market value of £360m by 2030. The project will achieve impact through Terravesta's dissemination activities with farmers and end users and the company will involve the student and their work as exemplars of new developments in Miscanthus. We hypothesise that early growth under glasshouse conditions combined with field growth under protective biodegradable film will extend the establishment period for Miscanthus producing improved overwintering and increased yield in subsequent years. The student will monitor growth and yield over subsequent seasons and will model environment and yield interactions (Year 2 and 3). We hypothesise that Miscanthus elongation growth curves represent a suitable synthesis of trait combinations that contribute to early establishment yield. The student will develop parameterised growth curves (Year 2) (e.g. Woods incomplete gamma function) to identify underlying genetic components that contribute to successful early establishment in both germinating seeds, seedlings and field grown plants. Seedling growth curves will be produced using image analysis of Miscanthus hybrid seed, from 6 diverse genotypes under 2 temperatures. The 6 genotypes will be from distinct genotypic groups and geographical origins. Populations that segregate for sed-to-seedling growth parameters will be grown to maturity to relate seedling growth parameters to first year yield. The student will also analyse growth curves from an established Miscanthus diversity trial in which much data is available including NGS sequencing and some simple trait analysis. The parameters will be compared with trait data from other projects and used in association studies to identify markers associated with parameters from early season growth curves (Year 2). The student will utilise bioinformatics tools available at Aberystwyth to verify marker associations as far as possible/necessary to produce publishable data. Exemplar genotypes from the field study will be grown in controlled environments to verify field analysis and to generate detailed curve parameter to trait associations (Year 3). We hypothesise that improved senescence after the first year will increase yield and will allow high yielding varieties to be grown in the UK that are currently not available due to overwintering loss. Miscanthus will be chemically induced to senesce in pot experiments to identify the most suitable chemical(s) for use in field studies. Rhizome development and metabolic flux will be measured using a Micromass LCT mass spectrometer (Years 1 & 2). This will provide fundamental insights into the regulation of senescence in rhizomatous Miscanthus at the metabolic level. In collaboration with Terravesta the student will establish field plot studies of first year growth of M. x giganteus and a high yielding novel hybrid that does not overwinter in the UK. The trial will be replicated and will include control sprays and chemically induced senescence (Autumn Year 2). Measurements will include the morphological difference in senescence progression from chlorophyll (SPAD) and fluorescence measurements (PAM) in trial plants after growth year 1, plus the impact on subsequent harvested crop quality, as a biochemical measure of senescence.