Sugarcane and Energycane Genetic Improvement for Subtropical Conditions
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Sugarcane (Saccharum spp) is a perennial tropical grass that originated in Southeast Asia and introduced to the warm tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas in the 1500's. The plant is extremely high yielding, producing large quantities of biomass, but production is restricted to subtropical and tropical regions and very few varieties grow well in low-input areas. Because sugarcane is a C4 plant (photosynthetic cycle with 4-carbon compounds as initial products), the photosynthetic efficiency of sugarcane is substantially higher than that of C3 crops such as rice (Oryza sativa), wheat (Triticum spp.). Sugarcane is closely related to species of the genera Miscanthus, Erianthus, Sclerostachya and Narenga and the term Saccharum Complex has been coined to describe this larger breeding group (Mukherjee, 1957). Some of these species have characteristics that are advantageous for bioenergy production but they are not present in sugarcane. Consequently, these traits could be introgressed into sugarcane through intergeneric hybridization (wide crosses).Combining favorable traits from different varieties into a common genotype is certainly desirable to expand the area for biofuels production. The sugarcane breeding program at Texas A&M AgriLife Research has been creating elite lines of sugarcane and energycane that are adapted to heat/drought prone production environments. These lines have various combinations of traits such as high sucrose content, biomass yield and stress resistance for sugar production as well as high fiber contents for low-cost, scalable bioenergy production.For the next five years, the sugarcane breeding program will have three priorities: (1) sucrose content, aiming at increasing sugar production;...........