Improving Alfalfa and Other Forage Crops for Bioenergy, Livestock Production, and Environmental Protection
The goal of this project is to improve energy availability from forages by modifying genetic, metabolic, and developmental processes that control cell wall synthesis and breakdown. These researchers use global transcript profiling of alfalfa and Medicago truncatula stems to identify and functionally characterize key genes regulating total cell wall accumulation and chemical composition. Gaps in knowledge of genes regulating cell wall synthesis in alfalfa hinder development of genetic approaches to improve energy availability by modifying cell walls. Increasing alfalfa stem cellulose and reducing lignin will increase bioconversion efficiency for ethanol production. The research will identify and functionally characterize key genes that regulate the amount and composition of cell walls in alfalfa stems. These genes will be evaluated as markers in a breeding program to increase the bioconversion efficiency of alfalfa stems to ethanol.