A Reference Genome for the Bioenergy Crop Switchgrass

Common gardens exploring the plant’s diversity.

The Science

Switchgrass is a complex plant with multiple copies of its chromosomes. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) long-term investments in developing switchgrass as a candidate biomass feedstock crop have led to a reference sequence and several experimental common gardens exploring the plant’s diversity.

The Impact

Researchers at the University of Texas–Austin led multiple institutions in collecting 700+ switchgrass plants from 25 states and establishing 10 experimental gardens across 1,100 miles. Using samples from these gardens, JGI researchers generated a high-quality switchgrass reference genome, AP13, which is available on the DOE Joint Genome Institute’s plant data portal Phytozome.


The DOE Bioenergy Research Centers are now harnessing the switchgrass genome to explore customizing the crop for additional high-value end products. The switchgrass common gardens spanning 1.100 miles have allowed researchers to test associations of climate adaptations with switchgrass biology. The reference genome for switchgrass AP13 is available on JGI’s plant data portal Phytozome. In fall 2020, the common gardens were funded for another five years.

Principal Investigator(s)

John Lovell
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology

Thomas Juenger
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology


This research was supported by the Genomic Science Program of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, Awards DESC0014156 to T.E.J., DE-SC0017883 to D.B.L., and DE-SC0010743 to K.M.D.; the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC, Awards DESC0018409 and DE-FC02-07ER64494); and the Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI, Award DE-AC05-000R22725). Funding was provided by U.S. National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) Awards IOS0922457 and IOS1444533 to T.E.J. and IOS1402393 to J.T.L. The work conducted by the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) is supported by the DOE Office of Science under Contract No DE-AC02-05CH11231. The work conducted by the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is supported by the DOE Office of Science under contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231. The work conducted by Argonne National Laboratory is supported by the DOE Office of Science under contract DE-AC02-06CH11357.


Lovell, J. et al. “Genomic Mechanisms of Climate Adaptation in Polyploid Bioenergy Switchgrass.” Nature 590, 438–444 (2021). DOI:10.1038/s41586-020-03127-1