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Abstract Detail

Ecological Section

Ecker, Geoffrey [1], Ahrens, Collin [2], Auer, Carol [2].

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) biogeographic distribution study for ecological risk assessment.

A native of North America, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a hardy rhizomatous perennial and an ideal low-input biofuel crop. Interest in switchgrass has prompted genetic engineering (GE) in this classic forage species. The regulatory process prior to the release of new GE plants requires evaluation of not only the modified plants themselves, but also of their potential negative impacts on the environment. One area of concern is the ability of GE switchgrass to hybridize with its weedy and wild relatives. The objective of this study is to assess potential gene flow in Panicum and the closely-related Dichanthelium using biogeographic surveys. Field studies were conducted in summer of 2009 in which targeted transects were placed across 7 distinct habitat types in the New England Coastal Hills and Plains ecoregion. Where possible, the 7 different habitat types were clustered in 20 locations throughout the ecoregion. All plant species were identified and recorded along a 50 meter transect. Twenty eight sites contained a total of four Panicum species; P.virgatum, P.dichotomiflorm, P.capillare, and P.rigidulum. P.virgatum was identified in 13 sites, the majority of which (69%) were roadside habitats. P.virgatum was found to co-occur with other Panicum and Dichanthelium species in 85% of the sites in which it was present. P.dichotomiflorum was identified at a total of 34 sites, 53% of which were agricultural fields. P.capillare and P.rigidulum were identified only in agricultural fields and herbaceous meadows respectively. A companion survey will be conducted in the summer of 2010 in the Southern New England Coastal Lowland ecoregion. Future work will include molecular markers, pollen emission modeling, and interspecies hybridization experiments. Together these tools will help identify of potential patterns gene flow and transgene movement from GE switchgrass grown for biofuel. This research is supported by a USDA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant.

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1 - University of Connecticut, Plant Science , 1379 Storrs Road, Unit 4067, Storrs, CT, 06269-4067, USA
2 - University of Connecticut, Plant Science, Box U-4163, Storrs, Connecticut, 06269, United States

ecological risk assessment
Plant community

Presentation Type: Poster:Posters for Sections
Session: P
Location: Hall A/Convention Center
Date: Monday, August 2nd, 2010
Time: 5:30 PM
Number: PEC012
Abstract ID:265

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