INVESTIGATORS: Erik Sacks (PI), Alexander Lipka, Jack C. Comstock, Vanessa Gordon, Toshihiko Yamada
INSTITUTIONS: University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana; USDA ARS Sugarcane Field Station, Canal Point, FL; Hokkaido University, Japan
PROJECT SUMMARY: Sugarcane, including its energy-dedicated subtype, energycane, is among the top three bioenergy crops worldwide, providing liquid fuels from fermentation of sugars and electricity from burning the remaining biomass. Sugarcane is remarkably productive, and due to its perennial growth, a sustainable bioenergy crop. However, disease-susceptibility is a major limitation of current sugarcane cultivars, reducing yields, decreasing longevity of plantings, squeezing profit margins, and reducing sustainability. For key diseases of sugarcane, such as ratoon stunt, sugarcane yellow leaf, orange rust, and smut, few or no sources of resistance genes are known within the cultivated sugarcanes. Miscanthus is a close relative of sugarcane that is strongly resistant to many sugarcane diseases. Recently, we crossed different accessions of Miscanthus with commercial sugarcane cultivars and obtained F1 miscane hybrid progenies. To breed disease resistant sugarcanes with high levels of sugar, we plan to cross the F1 miscanes back to sugarcane several times. To improve the efficiency of breeding sugarcane enhanced with disease-resistance genes from Miscanthus, we will identify molecular markers associated with the resistance so that marker-assisted selection can be conducted in the future. Additionally, we will conduct genetics studies to determine if the resistance is conferred by one or few genes of large effect, many genes of small effect, or a combination of both large and small effect genes. Such data will enable us to choose an optimal marker-assisted selection strategy for further progress. The long-term outcome of the proposed study is expected to be the development of improved energycane cultivars with enhanced disease-resistance, productivity and sustainability, thereby contributing to U.S. energy security via renewable energy.
Name: Sacks, Erik