Method of pollination and heritability for seedling vigor in switchgrass



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Texas A&M University


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a warm-season perennial bunchgrass native to North America. In addition to its importance as a forage grass, it has promise as a biofuel crop. However, its use is limited because the grass is difficult to establish. Improving seedling vigor is one approach for improving establishment. The objectives of this study were to: 1) select for increased seedling mass through half-sib family selection; 2) calculate an estimate of heritability for seedling mass; and 3) determine the mode of pollination of switchgrass. One cycle of selection was completed using a half-sib methodology. Seedling mass was determined in a series of growth chamber studies. The seed was produced in different space planted field nurseries in the College Station, TX area. Mean seedling weight of the base population (C0) was 0.014 gm seedling-1, while the mean seedling weight from the C1 cycle of selection was 0.029 gm seedling-1. Unfortunately, bulked seed from the base population was old and did not germinate well. Therefore, a new base population was recreated, and the C0 seedlings from this population were heavier than the C1 seedlings, 0.020 and 0.016 gm seedling-1,

respectively. The calculated heritability estimate was H2 = 0.6. Since the C0 and C1 nurseries were not grown on the same soil type, the lack of a positive response for seedling weight may be due to the different soil types. However, it may require another cycle of selection to determine if seedling mass can be positively impacted via half-sib selection. The mode of pollination of the species was determined by 1) observing pollen germination and tube growth in the pistils using fluorescent microscopy and 2) determining seed set with selfed plants. When self-pollinated, the pollen tubes never grew into the ovaries but when cross-pollinated the tubes readily grew to the micropyle. Also, when switchgrass plants were self-pollinated, viable seed were not produced. These findings indicate that switchgrass is highly self-sterile because a self-incompatibility mechanism prevents the pollen tubes from growing into the ovary of the same genotype.