Energy crop breeding and modelling at Aberystwyth University
What we do
Bioenergy from biomass will make a significant contribution to future energy security and the mitigation of anthropogenic climate change via sustainable substitution of fossil fuels. Our main bioenergy development work is with the species Miscanthus, a "C4 Asian grass which combines high yield potential with low inputs" (Lewandowski and Schmidt, 2006; Heaton et al., 2008; Hastings et al., 2009).
Our breeding programme is one of several Miscanthus breeding programmes outside Asia working on the matching of hybrids and genotypes to a wide range of growing conditions principally in Europe and the US. The aim is to increase the net energy yield per hectare, on land which is not used for food crops. This requires whole chain bioenergy analyses. Mathematical models are used by the group to summarise current understanding of the interactions between the environment and genotype (or novel variety) to project yields both spatially and temporarily. Sensitivity analyses are used to help select key traits limiting production potential. These feed into selection of parents for breeding novel hybrid varieties suitable for growing in a wide range of climates and different end uses.
Genetic resources are the basis of any breeding programme. Since 2004 we have built up one of the largest Miscanthus germplasm collections outside Asia with partners in Asia. We are part of a long successful tradition of breeding grasses at Aberystwyth which began with George Stapledon in the 1930s (Link Lolium, Oats programmes and Stapledon Society). Our breeding programme is closely connected to the Energy Crop Biology and Energy Crop Bioconversion research groups, who scientifically characterise parents and progeny for advantageous traits. We also work with many external partners in multiple locations in Europe and the US to both breed and test hybrids.
M i s c a n t h u s B r e e d i n g t o p r o v i d e s u s t a i n a b l e g l o b a l b i o e n e r g y f o r t h e f u t u r e