GENETIC IMPROVEMENT OF SUGARCANE BY CONVENTIONAL AND MOLECULAR APPROACHES
Location: Sugarcane Research Unit
Project Number: 6410-21000-014-00
Start Date: Apr 25, 2008
End Date: Apr 24, 2013
The long-term goals of this project are to develop sugarcane cultivars that are better adapted and more economical to grow and harvest, to meet current and evolving needs of both a sugar and a biofuels industry, and to gain a greater understanding of sugarcane from genetic and physiological perspectives. The objectives are to utilize: (1) a basic breeding program to broaden the genetic base of parental germplasm and increase the adaptability of sugarcane to more temperate climates through the introgression of genes from wild species (Saccharum spontaneum) and related genera of sugarcane, and (2) parental clones from the basic program to develop sugarcane cultivars that are: higher yielding (gross cane and sugar), require fewer inputs, more tolerant to disease and insect pests, and adapted to a broader range of environments than current cultivars (commercial breeding program). To assist in the selection process, trait-specific molecular markers for early sucrose accumulation, sugarcane borer resistance, and cold tolerance will be developed.
Included in the basic program’s breeding strategy to increase the genetic diversity of parental clones are: (1) acquisition and maintenance of germplasm from wild species of Saccharum and related genera; (2) characterization of parents and progeny for traits (cold tolerance, stubbling ability, disease resistance, and sugarcane borer resistance) that will increase the adaptation of sugarcane to Louisiana’s temperate climate; (3) utilization of crossing and molecular marker techniques to produce interspecific and intergeneric hybrids containing new sources of disease and insect resistance and cold tolerance; and (4) recombination of progeny through backcrossing to develop parental material containing a concentration of desirable genes for the commercial breeding program. Screening procedures will be developed to determine relative cold tolerance among clonal material in the basic breeding program. In the development of cultivars for sugar and bioenergy, emphasis will be placed on yield components (stalk number, height, and diameter), quality components (sucrose and fiber accumulation), longevity (stubbling ability), harvestability (root anchorage, stalk erectness, and stalk brittleness), hardiness (winter survival, early spring vigor, and stalk freeze tolerance), stress tolerance (droughts, floods, and heavy clay soils), and resistance to stalk boring insects (sugarcane borer and Mexican rice borer) and diseases (smut, rust, leaf scald, mosaic, yellow leaf virus, and ratoon stunting disease). Recurrent selection techniques will be utilized to accelerate the rate of genetic improvement for important traits. In addition, trait-specific markers closely associated with desirable traits such as sucrose accumulation, cold tolerance, and resistance to the sugarcane borer will be developed to assist breeders in eliminating undesirable plants early in the selection process.