Switchgrass Germination for Biofuel Production

Henry Perry

Perry Seed Lab 2

Biofuels comprise an important sustainable energy source. Grasses, especially switchgrass, are renewable biofuel primary materials that are easy to grow, process, and store. Research on switchgrass for use in biofuel production started in the 1930’s and has had a recent resurgence as many energy companies search for alternatives to fossil fuels. The main goal of my project was to compare germination in each experiment to further select for cold tolerance in switchgrass lines.

Laboratory germination tests were conducted to determine cold tolerance of breeding lines of switchgrass. In the first experiment, treatments included commercial cultivars and cycle 0, 1, and 2, while the second experiment included treatments organized by groups of breeding lines previously selected for cold tolerance and fast germination. Experiment 1 more specifically included seeds from seedlings selected for cold tolerance and rapid germination from the USDA Plant Conservation Center in Big Flats, NY and commercial cultivars that are moderately sensitive to low temperatures. There were a total of 12 treatments, including 8 total treatments for the four commercial varieties, “Cave-in-Rock,” “Carthage,” “Shelter,” and “Kanlow,” with seeds produced from a nursery in Ithaca, NY and from commercial seedlots and 4 total treatments from plants selected through 3 generations of selection, Cycle 0, Cycle 1, and Cycle 2, with 2 treatments of Cycle 2 seed.

Experiment 2 was conducted to further select for decreased dormancy and increased cold tolerance from groups of breeding lines. The treatments included 115-13-2009,115-16-2009, 115-6-2009, 115-7-2009, 115-8-2009, 130-1-2009, 130-16-2009, 130-3-2009, 130-5-2009, 130-7-2009, 131-1-2009, 131-16-2009, 131-7-2009, 202-15-2009, and 339-3-2008.The results demonstrated very successful selection for cold tolerance in breeding lines of switchgrass, such as CiR – Nursery and Carthage – Nursery. This allows for agricultural expansion of biofuel primary materials to cold climates and areas with short growing seasons.