Jacob Jungers, Professor
Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics
Sponsor: Forever Green Initiative, Clean Water Fund
Award Amount: $137,000
Intermediate wheatgrass (IWG) provides a suite of environmental benefits compared to annual grains, including improved soil health and carbon sequestration, as a result of the deep, dense root system that has become the signature characteristic of this new perennial grain crop. However, little is known about IWG root growth and morphology in Minnesota environments, how root growth is related to grain yield longevity, and whether roots are changing as a result of breeding for enhanced grain yield traits.
The objectives are to 1) examine and quantify tradeoffs in IWG root and herbaceous growth and grain yields in the latest breeding germplasm, 2) determine the impact of tillering on grain yields and root biomass, 3) develop methods for non-destructive root phenotyping using rhizosphere imaging, and 4) determine whether root characteristics and carbon partitioning to herbaceous growth and reproductive components are related to changes in grain yield through time. We will conduct field research using genets with distinct vegetative and reproductive morphology, as well as with breeding populations in variety trials, to assess the relationship between root growth, herbage growth, and seed production.
Outcomes will include the first information on how plant improvement via breeding affects root characteristics and carbon partitioning over the life of a three-year IWG stand, as well as a method for root phenotyping in IWG via rhizosphere imaging. Development of a rhizosphere imaging method for IWG would enable non-destructive, low-cost root phenotyping and contribute to breeders’ ability to improve IWG grain yield while preserving the crop’s environmental benefits.