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Surveying Grassland Islands: the genetics and performance of Appalachian switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) collections

Cite this dataset

Tilhou, Neal W.; Casler, Michael D. (2022). Surveying Grassland Islands: the genetics and performance of Appalachian switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) collections [Dataset]. Dryad.


The interior Southeastern United States could contain novel germplasm for the bioenergy crop switchgrass due to its diverse habitats and geographic location between genetic subpopulations (Atlantic, Midwest, and Gulf). Collections from this region could accelerate breeding progress, contribute to conservation efforts, and improve understanding of isolated grasslands in the region. This study located 22 sites in the Midsouth region and obtained 1,521,210 single nucleotide polymorphism markers of 202 individuals through genotype-by-sequencing. Individuals were evaluated for flowering time, winter survival and tiller number. Comparison to a national diversity panel revealed that branches of two major subpopulations occur in the region with two levels of polyploidy: Atlantic tetraploids and Midwest octoploids. Two locations contained admixed octoploid individuals with Midwest and Gulf genetics. Field performance of the Midwest octoploids conformed with prior reported performance of the Midwest subpopulation, although three sites contained promising late flowering traits. The Atlantic tetraploids had moderate winter survival, short stature, and anomalously early flowering. Atlantic populations mostly occurred in marginal sites and their morphological and flowering time adaptations may be a resource conservation strategy. Demographic inference of historical effective population size variation in a subset of tetraploid locations indicated a widespread recent decline in effective population size. This pattern is consistent with isolation of these switchgrass communities from larger populations and is further supported by evidence of inbreeding within the populations (FI = 0.18). The populations documented in this study contain novel genetic diversity and adaptations to a range of marginal habitats. Therefore, this study provides a new source of germplasm for future breeding and conservation programs.


Germplasm was collected across the interior southeastern United States by collecting ramets from switchgrass individuals at 22 locations.  Surviving individuals were sequenced using genotype-by-sequencing as described in the manuscript.  Sample IDs were assigned a location code and number (DSF-01 and MP-08, for example).


Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, U.S. Department of Energy, Award: DE-SC0018409