Nitrogen recycling and flowering time in perennial bioenergy crops

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Perennials have a number of traits important for profitability and sustainability of a biofuel crop. Perennialism is generally defined as the ability to grow and reproduce in multiple years. In temperate climates, many perennial plants enter dormancy during winter and recycle nutrients, such as nitrogen, to below ground structures for the next growing season. Nitrogen is expensive to produce and application of nitrogen increases the potent greenhouse gas NOx. Perennial bioenergy crops have been evaluated for biomass yields with nitrogen fertilization, location, year, and genotype as variables. Flowering time and dormancy are closely related to the N recycling program. Substantial variation for flowering time and dormancy has been identified in the switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) species, which provides a source to identify the genetic components of N recycling, and for use in breeding programs. Some studies have addressed recycling specifically, but flowering time and developmental differences were largely ignored, complicating interpretation of the results. Future studies on recycling need to appreciate plant developmental stage to allow comparison between experiments. A perennial/annual model(s) and more environmentally controlled experiments would be useful to determine the genetic components of nitrogen recycling. Increasing biomass yield per unit of nitrogen by maximizing recycling might mean the difference for profitability of a biofuel crop and has the added benefit of minimizing negative environmental effects from agriculture. © 2013 Schwartz and Amasino.




Schwartz, C., & Amasino, R. (2013, April 22). Nitrogen recycling and flowering time in perennial bioenergy crops. Frontiers in Plant Science. Frontiers Research Foundation.

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