Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a C4 perennial warm season grass indigenous to the North American tallgrass prairie. A number of its natural and agronomic traits, including adaptation to a wide geographical distribution, low nutrient requirements and production costs, high water use efficiency, high biomass potential, ease of harvesting, and potential for carbon storage, make it an attractive dedicated biomass crop for biofuel production. We believe that genetic improvements using biotechnology will be important to realize the potential of the biomass and biofuel-related uses of switchgrass. Tissue culture techniques aimed at rapid propagation of switchgrass and genetic transformation protocols have been developed. Rapid progress in genome sequencing and bioinformatics has provided efficient strategies to identify, tag, clone and manipulate many economically-important genes, including those related to higher biomass, saccharification efficiency, and lignin biosynthesis. Application of the best genetic tools should render improved switchgrass that will be more economically and environmentally sustainable as a lignocellulosic bioenergy feedstock.
Biotechnology for Biofuels 2013, 6:77 doi:10.1186/1754-6834-6-77