The Importance of the Wild Cane Saccharum spontaneum for Bioenergy Genetic Breeding
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© 2017, Society for Sugar Research & Promotion. The relative easiness of interspecific hybridization between sugarcane and other closely related wild grass species presents an excellent way for breeders to genetically improve it, through conventional plant breeding. Among the closely related species to sugarcane, Saccharum spontaneum has the greatest potential as a source of genetic variation for a number of traits. In addition, the species presents several features, including outstanding adaptability to different habitats, and resistance to several diseases, which makes it an excellent genetic resource for breeding, particularly when aiming at bioenergy production and low-input adaptability, with the extra benefit of increased carbon sequestration. In this review, currently available information related to S. spontaneum has been compiled to help breeders in their efforts to explore, for breeding purposes aiming at bioenergy, the tremendous, and yet untapped, genetic variability present in this species. Numerous traits inherent to S. spontaneum, with emphasis on those advantageous for bioenergy production, are presented in an attempt to put together current literature related to its potential role as a genetic resource, for breeding energy canes. With the potential to enable a significant increase in carbon deposition depth and accumulation, an increase in water productivity, S. spontaneum can generate energy cane germplasm adapted to the actively managed cropland and to areas with contaminated soil, to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions annually, improving the climate resiliency of agricultural production. The emerging discipline of phenomics is proposed to characterize S. spontaneum germplasm, aiming at energy cane breeding, for climate change mitigation.
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