Developing Switchgrass for Biomass Production: Community Gardens Help Distinguish Genetic Bases of Fitness Traits from Climatic Influence

The Science

Investigate the genetic basis of local adaptation in order to increase biomass yield for sustainable biofuel production.

The Impact

  • Spring emergence and flowering time determined by location.
  • Fewer tradeoffs than expected found in genetic contribution to local adaptation across geographic range.
  • Large-scale field experiment demonstrates potential for development of “generalist” switchgrass by combining locally advantageous alleles.


  • Established switchgrass community gardens in 10 different field sites in United States.
  • Developed and clonally propagated >400 lowland x upland hybrids.
  • Samples collected for sequencing and analysis at all sites over two full years.
  • QTL mapping applied to investigate genes involved in key fitness traits, and how these genes interact with the environment.


Lowry, D.B. et al. “QTL × environment interactions underlie adaptive divergence in switchgrass across a large latitudinal gradient.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 116(26), 12933–12941 (2019). [DOI:10.1073/pnas.1821543116]