Genotypic diversity effects on biomass production in native perennial bioenergy cropping systems.
ABSTRACT: The perennial grass species that are being developed as biomass feedstock crops harbor extensive genotypic diversity, but the effects of this diversity on biomass production are not well understood. We investigated the effects of genotypic diversity in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) on perennial biomass cropping systems in two experiments conducted over 2008-2014 at a 5.4-ha fertile field site in northeastern Illinois, USA. We varied levels of switchgrass and big bluestem genotypic diversity using various local and nonlocal cultivars - under low or high species diversity, with or without nitrogen inputs - and quantified establishment, biomass yield, and biomass composition. In one experiment ('agronomic trial'), we compared three switchgrass cultivars in monoculture to a switchgrass cultivar mixture and three different species mixtures, with or without N fertilization. In another experiment ('diversity gradient'), we varied diversity levels in switchgrass and big bluestem (1, 2, 4, or 6 cultivars per plot), with one or two species per plot. In both experiments, cultivar mixtures produced yields equivalent to or greater than the best cultivars. In the agronomic trial, the three switchgrass mixture showed the highest production overall, though not significantly different than best cultivar monoculture. In the diversity gradient, genotypic mixtures had one-third higher biomass production than the average monoculture, and none of the monocultures were significantly higher yielding than the average mixture. Year-to-year variation in yields was lowest in the three-cultivar switchgrass mixtures and Cave-In-Rock (the southern Illinois cultivar) and also reduced in the mixture of switchgrass and big bluestem relative to the species monocultures. The effects of genotypic diversity on biomass composition were modest relative to the differences among species and genotypes. Our findings suggest that local genotypes can be included in biomass cropping systems without compromising yields and that genotypic mixtures could help provide high, stable yields of high-quality biomass feedstocks.
Project description:Invasive plant species often dominate native species in competition, augmenting other potential advantages such as release from natural enemies. Resource pre-emption may be a particularly important mechanism for establishing dominance over competitors of the same functional type. We hypothesized that competitive success of an exotic grass against native grasses is mediated by establishing an early size advantage. We tested this prediction among four perennial C4 warm-season grasses: the exotic weed Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparius) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). We predicted that a) the competitive effect of Johnsongrass on target species would be proportional to their initial biomass difference, b) competitive effect and response would be negatively correlated and c) soil fertility would have little effect on competitive relationships. In a greenhouse, plants of the four species were grown from seed either alone or with one Johnsongrass neighbor at two fertilizer levels and periodically harvested. The first two hypotheses were supported: The seedling biomass of single plants at first harvest (50 days after seeding) ranked the same way as the competitive effect of Johnsongrass on target species: Johnsongrass < big bluestem < little bluestem/switchgrass, while Johnsongrass responded more strongly to competition from Johnsongrass than from native species. At final harvest, native plants growing with Johnsongrass attained between 2-5% of their single-plant non-root biomass, while Johnsongrass growing with native species attained 89% of single-plant non-root biomass. Fertilization enhanced Johnsongrass' competitive effects on native species, but added little to the already severe competitive suppression. Accelerated early growth of Johnsongrass seedlings relative to native seedlings appeared to enable subsequent resource pre-emption. Size-asymmetric competition and resource-pre-emption may be a critical mechanism by which exotic invasive species displace functionally similar native species and alter the functional dynamics of native communities.
Project description:Plants may actively cultivate microorganisms in their roots and rhizosphere that enhance their nutrition. To develop cropping strategies that substitute mineral fertilizers for beneficial root symbioses, we must first understand how microbial communities associated with plant roots differ among plant taxa and how they respond to fertilization. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and rhizobacteria are of particular interest because they enhance nutrient availability to plants and perform a suite of nutrient cycling functions. The purpose of this experiment is to examine the root and soil microbiome in a long-term switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) biofuel feedstock experiment and determine how AM fungi and rhizobacteria respond to plant diversity and soil fertility. We hypothesize that intra- and interspecific plant diversity, nitrogen fertilization (+N), and their interaction will influence the biomass and community composition of AM fungi and rhizobacteria. We further hypothesize that +N will reduce the abundance of nitrogenase-encoding nifH genes on the rhizoplane. Roots and soils were sampled from three switchgrass cultivars (Cave-in-Rock, Kanlow, Southlow) grown in monoculture, intraspecific mixture, and interspecific planting mixtures with either Andropogon gerardii or diverse native tallgrass prairie species. Molecular sequencing was performed on root and soil samples, fatty acid extractions were assessed to determine microbial biomass, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was performed on nifH genes from the rhizoplane. Sequence data determined core AM fungal and bacterial microbiomes and indicator taxa for plant diversity and +N treatments. We found that plant diversity and +N influenced AM fungal biomass and community structure. Across all plant diversity treatments, +N reduced the biomass of AM fungi and nifH gene abundance by more than 40%. The AM fungal genus Scutellospora was an indicator for +N, with relative abundance significantly greater under +N and in monoculture treatments. Community composition of rhizobacteria was influenced by plant diversity but not by +N. Verrucomicrobia and Proteobacteria were the dominant bacterial phyla in both roots and soils. Our findings provide evidence that soil fertility and plant diversity structure the root and soil microbiome. Optimization of soil communities for switchgrass production must take into account differences among cultivars and their unique responses to shifts in soil fertility.
Project description:Yellow sugarcane aphid (YSA) (Sipha flava, Forbes) is a damaging pest on many grasses. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), a perennial C4 grass, has been selected as a bioenergy feedstock because of its perceived resilience to abiotic and biotic stresses. Aphid infestation on switchgrass has the potential to reduce the yields and biomass quantity. Here, the global defense response of switchgrass cultivars Summer and Kanlow to YSA feeding was analyzed by RNA-seq and metabolite analysis at 5, 10, and 15 days after infestation. Genes upregulated by infestation were more common in both cultivars compared to downregulated genes. In total, a higher number of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were found in the YSA susceptible cultivar (Summer), and fewer DEGs were observed in the YSA resistant cultivar (Kanlow). Interestingly, no downregulated genes were found in common between each time point or between the two switchgrass cultivars. Gene co-expression analysis revealed upregulated genes in Kanlow were associated with functions such as flavonoid, oxidation-response to chemical, or wax composition. Downregulated genes for the cultivar Summer were found in co-expression modules with gene functions related to plant defense mechanisms or cell wall composition. Global analysis of defense networks of the two cultivars uncovered differential mechanisms associated with resistance or susceptibility of switchgrass in response to YSA infestation. Several gene co-expression modules and transcription factors correlated with these differential defense responses. Overall, the YSA-resistant Kanlow plants have an enhanced defense even under aphid uninfested conditions.
Project description:Biodiversity experiments show that increases in plant diversity can lead to greater biomass production, and some researchers suggest that high diversity plantings should be used for bioenergy production. However, many methods used in past biodiversity experiments are impractical for bioenergy plantings. For example, biodiversity experiments often use intensive management such as hand weeding to maintain low diversity plantings and exclude unplanted species, but this would not be done for bioenergy plantings. Also, biodiversity experiments generally use high seeding densities that would be too expensive for bioenergy plantings. Here we report the effects of biodiversity on biomass production from two studies of more realistic bioenergy crop plantings in southern Michigan, USA. One study involved comparing production between switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) monocultures and species-rich prairie plantings on private farm fields that were managed similarly to bioenergy plantings. The other study was an experiment where switchgrass was planted in monoculture and in combination with increasingly species-rich native prairie mixtures. Overall, we found that bioenergy plantings with higher species richness did not produce more biomass than switchgrass monocultures. The lack of a positive relationship between planted species richness and production in our studies may be due to several factors. Non-planted species (weeds) were not removed from our studies and these non-planted species may have competed with planted species and also prevented realized species richness from equaling planted species richness. Also, we found that low seeding density of individual species limited the biomass production of these individual species. Production in future bioenergy plantings with high species richness may be increased by using a high density of inexpensive seed from switchgrass and other highly productive species, and future efforts to translate the results of biodiversity experiments to bioenergy plantings should consider the role of seeding density.
Project description:Agricultural grasslands are often cultivated as mixtures of grasses and legumes, and an extensive body of literature is available regarding interspecific interactions, and how these relate to yield and agronomic performance. However, knowledge of the impact of intraspecific diversity on grassland functioning is scarce. We investigated these effects during a 4-year field trial established with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and red clover (Trifolium pratense). We simulated different levels of intraspecific functional diversity by sowing single cultivars or by combining cultivars with contrasting growth habits, in monospecific or bispecific settings (i.e. perennial ryegrass whether or not in combination with red clover). Replicate field plots were established for seven seed compositions. We determined yield parameters and monitored differences in genetic diversity in the ryegrass component among seed compositions, and temporal changes in the genetic composition and genetic diversity at the within plot level. The composition of cultivars of both species affected the yield and species abundance. In general, the presence of clover had a positive effect on the yield. The cultivar composition of the ryegrass component had a significant effect on the yield, both in monoculture, and in combination with clover. For the genetic analyses, we validated empirically that genotyping-by-sequencing of pooled samples (pool-GBS) is a suitable method for accurate measurement of population allele frequencies, and obtained a dataset of 22,324 SNPs with complete data. We present a method to investigate the temporal dynamics of cultivars in seed mixtures grown under field conditions, and show how cultivar abundances vary during subsequent years. We screened the SNP panel for outlier loci, putatively under selection during the cultivation period, but none were detected.
Project description:The genetics and responses to biotic stressors of tetraploid switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) lowland cultivar 'Kanlow' and upland cultivar Summer are distinct and can be exploited for trait improvement. In general, there is a paucity of data on the basal differences in transcription across tissue developmental times for switchgrass cultivars. Here, the changes in basal and temporal expression of genes related to leaf functions were evaluated for greenhouse grown 'Kanlow', and 'Summer' plants. Three biological replicates of the 4th leaf pooled from 15 plants per replicate were harvested at regular intervals beginning from leaf emergence through senescence. Increases and decreases in leaf chlorophyll and N content were similar for both cultivars. Likewise, multidimensional scaling (MDS) analysis indicated both cultivar-independent and cultivar-specific gene expression. Cultivar-independent genes and gene-networks included those associated with leaf function, such as growth/senescence, carbon/nitrogen assimilation, photosynthesis, chlorophyll biosynthesis, and chlorophyll degradation. However, many genes encoding nucleotide-binding leucine rich repeat (NB-LRRs) proteins and wall-bound kinases associated with detecting and responding to environmental signals were differentially expressed. Several of these belonged to unique cultivar-specific gene co-expression networks. Analysis of genomic resequencing data provided several examples of NB-LRRs genes that were not expressed and/or apparently absent in the genomes of Summer plants. It is plausible that cultivar (ecotype)-specific genes and gene-networks could be one of the drivers for the documented differences in responses to leaf-borne pathogens between these two cultivars. Incorporating broad resistance to plant pathogens in elite switchgrass germplasm could improve sustainability of biomass production under low-input conditions.
Project description:Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a warm-season perennial grass that can be used as a second generation bioenergy crop. However, foliar fungal pathogens, like switchgrass rust, have the potential to significantly reduce switchgrass biomass yield. Despite its importance as a prominent bioenergy crop, a genome-wide comprehensive analysis of NB-LRR disease resistance genes has yet to be performed in switchgrass.In this study, we used a homology-based computational approach to identify 1011 potential NB-LRR resistance gene homologs (RGHs) in the switchgrass genome (v 1.1). In addition, we identified 40 RGHs that potentially contain unique domains including major sperm protein domain, jacalin-like binding domain, calmodulin-like binding, and thioredoxin. RNA-sequencing analysis of leaf tissue from 'Alamo', a rust-resistant switchgrass cultivar, and 'Dacotah', a rust-susceptible switchgrass cultivar, identified 2634 high quality variants in the RGHs between the two cultivars. RNA-sequencing data from field-grown cultivar 'Summer' plants indicated that the expression of some of these RGHs was developmentally regulated.Our results provide useful insight into the molecular structure, distribution, and expression patterns of members of the NB-LRR gene family in switchgrass. These results also provide a foundation for future work aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying disease resistance in this important bioenergy crop.
Project description:Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a native perennial grass species with great potential for bioenergy and forage. However, knowledge about its genetics and biology related to breeding is still in its infancy. Studying the diversity of switchgrass germplasm will shed light on variability, response to environmental conditions, adaptability, breeding, etc. Thirty-six switchgrass accessions/cultivars were used to study the ecotypic and genotypic effects on regrowth, heading date, and vegetative growth period. The R-360 honeycomb design was used for planting these accessions in 2007. Data on regrowth and heading dates were recorded in 2008, 2010, and 2011. Vegetative growth period was calculated by subtracting the regrowth date from the heading date. It was found that the lowland started regrowing earlier (77 ± 0.4 days of the year, DOY) than the upland ecotype (82 ± 0.3 DOY). The upland had earlier heading date (160 ± 0.4 DOY) than the lowland ecotype (173 ± 0.5 DOY). Vegetative growth period was about 18 days longer in the lowland (89 ± 0.6 days) than the upland ecotype (71 ± 0.4 days). For switchgrass (i.e., all accessions), biomass yield was related positively to growth period and heading date; however, biomass was only weakly related to regrowth. Therefore, when targeting biomass in the breeding program, growth period may be a quick and reliable reference in both ecotypes to quickly estimate biomass potential while regrowth and heading date may be better used as a parameter for accessions within an ecotype.
Project description:Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a low input, high biomass perennial grass being developed for the bioenergy sector. Upland and lowland cultivars can differ in their responses to insect herbivory. Fall armyworm [FAW; Spodoptera frugiperda JE Smith (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)] is a generalist pest of many plant species and can feed on switchgrass as well. Here, in two different trials, FAW larval mass were significantly reduced when fed on lowland cultivar Kanlow relative to larvae fed on upland cultivar Summer plants after 10 days. Hormone content of plants indicated elevated levels of the plant defense hormone jasmonic acid (JA) and its bioactive conjugate JA-Ile although significant differences were not observed. Conversely, the precursor to JA, 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid (OPDA) levels were significantly different between FAW fed Summer and Kanlow plants raising the possibility of differential signaling by OPDA in the two cultivars. Global transcriptome analysis revealed a stronger response in Kanlow plant relative to Summer plants. Among these changes were a preferential upregulation of several branches of terpenoid and phenylpropanoid biosynthesis in Kanlow plants suggesting that enhanced biosynthesis or accumulation of antifeedants could have negatively impacted FAW larval mass gain on Kanlow plants relative to Summer plants. A comparison of the switchgrass-FAW RNA-Seq dataset to those from maize-FAW and switchgrass-aphid interactions revealed that key components of plant responses to herbivory, including induction of JA biosynthesis, key transcription factors and JA-inducible genes were apparently conserved in switchgrass and maize. In addition, these data affirm earlier studies with FAW and aphids that the cultivar Kanlow can provide useful genetics for the breeding of switchgrass germplasm with improved insect resistance.
Project description:Grassland diversity can support sustainable intensification of grassland production through increased yields, reduced inputs and limited weed invasion. We report the effects of diversity on weed suppression from 3 years of a 31-site continental-scale field experiment.At each site, 15 grassland communities comprising four monocultures and 11 four-species mixtures based on a wide range of species' proportions were sown at two densities and managed by cutting. Forage species were selected according to two crossed functional traits, "method of nitrogen acquisition" and "pattern of temporal development".Across sites, years and sown densities, annual weed biomass in mixtures and monocultures was 0.5 and 2.0 t DM ha-1 (7% and 33% of total biomass respectively). Over 95% of mixtures had weed biomass lower than the average of monocultures, and in two-thirds of cases, lower than in the most suppressive monoculture (transgressive suppression). Suppression was significantly transgressive for 58% of site-years. Transgressive suppression by mixtures was maintained across years, independent of site productivity.Based on models, average weed biomass in mixture over the whole experiment was 52% less (95% confidence interval: 30%-75%) than in the most suppressive monoculture. Transgressive suppression of weed biomass was significant at each year across all mixtures and for each mixture.Weed biomass was consistently low across all mixtures and years and was in some cases significantly but not largely different from that in the equiproportional mixture. The average variability (standard deviation) of annual weed biomass within a site was much lower for mixtures (0.42) than for monocultures (1.77). Synthesis and applications. Weed invasion can be diminished through a combination of forage species selected for complementarity and persistence traits in systems designed to reduce reliance on fertiliser nitrogen. In this study, effects of diversity on weed suppression were consistently strong across mixtures varying widely in species' proportions and over time. The level of weed biomass did not vary greatly across mixtures varying widely in proportions of sown species. These diversity benefits in intensively managed grasslands are relevant for the sustainable intensification of agriculture and, importantly, are achievable through practical farm-scale actions.