Cool Temperature Effects on Productivity and Photosynthesis of Two Biomass Fuel Species: Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and  Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus)

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Virginia Tech

The world's highest yielding crops are C4 plants due to their higher water use efficiency, nitrogen use efficiency, and productivity compared with C3 plants.  With an increasing demand for renewable resources as a result of the decreasing global supplies of fossil fuels, we need to improve our understanding of the limitations of biomass fuel feedstock to improve yields and better satisfy energy requirements.  The ability to attain the goal feedstock production in the US is limited by available arable land and cool temperatures.  This study investigates the effects of cool temperatures on the productivity and photosynthesis of the two species with the highest potential for feedstock production in the US: switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) cv. Alamo and miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus).  At 14/12"C and a 14/10 hour light/dark photoperiod, switchgrass showed lower productivity and light saturated photosynthetic rates (Amax=10.3 "mol m-2s-1) compared with 28/25"C and the same photoperiod (Amax=18.8 "mol m-2s-1).  Miscanthus has demonstrated cold tolerance in previous studies, and here showed no significant decrease in the productivity or photosynthetic rates in cool, compared with warm, growing conditions (Amax=8.2 "mol m-2s-1 and 7.0 "mol m-2s-1 for warm and cool conditions, respectively). Also, this study examines the potential limitations of C4 photosynthesis by the enzyme pyruvate phosphate dikinase (PPDK) under the same cool conditions, transgenic switchgrass cv. Alamo were created with the insertion of the miscanthus PPDK gene. Productivity and photosynthetic responses of the transgenic plants were evaluated in cool and warm growth temperatures.  Of the two transgenic events tested here, line S(1) displayed cold tolerance, as seen in no loss of both carboxylation efficiency and the ratio of CO2 assimilation to electron transport (Asat/Jmax).  These results indicate that PPDK may pose a significant limitation to C4 photosynthesis in cool conditions and there is a possibility that cold season photosynthesis of switchgrass cv. Alamo could be improved.

Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, Miscanthus, Miscanthus x giganteus Photosynthesis, Productivity, Low Temperature, C4 photosynthes