Genetic improvement of Sorghum as a biofuel feedstock: I. Qtl for stem sugar and grain nonstructural carbohydrates

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Genetic improvement of sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] has traditionally focused on a single nonstructural carbohydrate, either grain starch or stem sugar. Sorghum starch and sugar may both be used as feedstocks for biofuel production. To investigate genetic tradeoffs between grain and stem sugar, a population derived from sweet sorghum cultivar Rio and grain sorghum ‘BTx623’ was evaluated for 27 traits related to grain and stem sugar yield and composition. Across three environments, a total of 129 quantitative trait loci (QTL) were identified. Tradeoffs identified between grain and stem sugar yield QTL colocalized with height and flowering time QTL. Most importantly, QTL were identified that increased yield and altered the composition of stem sugar and grain without pleiotropic effects. For example, a QTL on chromosome 3 that explained 25% of the genetic variance for stem sugar concentration did not colocalize with any grain QTL. These results suggest that total nonstructural carbohydrate yield could be increased by selecting for major QTL from both grain and sweet sorghum types. We conclude that altering grain and stem sugar genetic potential for yield traits should lead to greater feedstock improvement than altering composition traits.

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