Researchers began by selecting pennycress seeds from various locations across Minnesota, the Midwest, Canada, South America and Europe. The plants that exhibit early maturity, high yield, large amounts of biomass and winter hardiness will be used during in-field agronomic and yield trials at various research locations across Minnesota. The most vigorous plants from the in-field trials will be used to increase the amount of seed available for commercial planting. Upon the conclusion of the breeding effort, a gene selection model will be created using the project data and results. This gene selection model will be used to select the most desirable pennycress lines to grow.
Initial seeds were collected from various locations across Minnesota, the Midwest, Canada, South America and Europe and planted in the fall of 2013. Seventy unique individual plants will be grown in single 5 ft. rows in two replications and only plants that exhibit early maturity, high yield, large amounts of biomass and winter hardiness will be used in future research.
Data collected from the initial planting included vigor, percent germination, percent flowering, number of days to maturity, percent winter survival, yield, and basal width (as a measure of above-ground biomass and soil coverage).
Breeding for early maturity
Plants will be assessed for:
Plants selected for further trials will be those that express early maturity.
Breeding for high yield
Individual plant rows will be hand-cut and allowed time to dry before the seed is harvested. Evaluation of total seed yield will be on a per row basis.
Breeding for large basal width to provide maximum crop water use
Plants selected for further trials will be those that express large basal width and maximum crop water usage.
Breeding for winter hardiness
Plants per row will be counted in the fall and compared to plant counts in the spring as a measure for winter hardiness.
Plants selected for further trials will be those that express superior winter hardiness.
Developing a model for gene selection
Gene sequence data and yield data from field trials will be used to create a model that will allow for the prediction of overall plant performance when two individual plants are crossed. The model will allow the plant breeder to select the best performing plants, with the best traits, and thus will increase the efficiency of future breeding programs because the model takes a lot of the “guess-work” out of plant breeding.
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