Miscanspeed – accelerating Miscanthus breeding using genomic selection

Led by Aberystwyth University

The aim of this project is to demonstrate the application of genomic selection (GS) in accelerating the breeding of high yielding, resilient Miscanthus varieties for the UK. Miscanthus is a leading perennial biomass crop for the UK and beyond. The current commercial clone Miscanthus x giganteus (Mxg) produces high annual biomass yields but has certain limitations. Breeding is underway to diversify the crop for resilient high yields across a range of environments, but this is limited by the 3 years that it takes to reach maturity. GS, which uses the information stored in the plant genome, has been demonstrated to increase the rate of genetic gain in commercial annual crops (e.g. maize, wheat), and we have previously demonstrated its feasibility in our Miscanthus research populations. What is now required is to implement and assess this innovation in our Miscanthus breeding programme.

To do this the project will:

  • collect genomic marker and phenotype data from two Miscanthus populations in our breeding programme.
  • train and test/calibrate GS models to predict traits of interest.
  • perform annual seed to seed cycles within each population.

The key advantages of GS are that it can shorten by 2 years the time required for a key step in the breeding cycle, tackle logistical and cost issues of retaining parent plants to maturity, and enable selection for complex traits. Implementation of GS in Miscanthus breeding should therefore deliver an effective and flexible breeding platform for the future that enables the production of new varieties of Miscanthus suitable for current and future UK climates and land types.


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