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BER Research Highlights

Developing Switchgrass for Biomass Production: Community Gardens Help Distinguish Genetic Bases of Fitness Traits from Climatic Influence
Published: June 10, 2019
Posted: August 03, 2021


Investigate the genetic basis of local adaptation in order to increase biomass yield for sustainable biofuel production.


  • Established switchgrass community gardens in 10 different field sites in United States.
  • Developed and clonally propagated >400 lowland x upland hybrids.
  • Samples collected for sequencing and analysis at all sites over two full years.
  • QTL mapping applied to investigate genes involved in key fitness traits, and how these genes interact with the environment.


  • Spring emergence and flowering time determined by location.
  • Fewer tradeoffs than expected found in genetic contribution to local adaptation across geographic range.
  • Large-scale field experiment demonstrates potential for development of “generalist” switchgrass by combining locally advantageous alleles.

Lowry, D.B. et al. “QTL × environment interactions underlie adaptive divergence in switchgrass across a large latitudinal gradient.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 116(26), 12933–12941 (2019). [DOI:10.1073/pnas.1821543116]

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts

Division: SC-33.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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