Building a Better Biofuel: Discovering Physiological Differences Between Switchgrass Varieties
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Panicum virgatum L., or switchgrass, is a perennial C4 grass that is native to North America that consists of two ecotypes, lowland and upland. This perennial grass has been shown to be an ideal and likely candidate for biofuel as it has high levels of productivity when compared to other herbaceous species (Wright 1994). In order to further maximize these yields, modern techniques must be applied. Selective breeding is a common technique in maximizing yield in crops. Certain varieties of switchgrass such as Kanlow and Alamo have been shown to yield greater amounts of biomass than other switchgrass varieties in the states of Texas, Georgia, and Alabama (McLaughlin and Kszos, 2005), meaning that there are differences in traits accounting for this increase in yields. By analyzing the physiological traits that may be responsible for the increase production of certain switchgrass varieties, it would be possible to select for these traits and maximize biomass outputs. In improving the production of lignocellulosic crops, we would help to contribute to the renewable energy movement.