Two research teams have sequenced foxtail millet, a domesticated grass that is closely related to switchgrass, and that may be a model for crop and biofuel research.
In two separate Nature Biotechnology papers, both groups describe assemblies that are slightly larger than 400 megabases, and a genome with about 24,000 to 39,000 genes. Additionally, the groups note a number of transposable elements and chromosome reshuffling events in the Setaria genome.
The University of Georgia's Jeffrey Bennetzen and colleagues compared their Setaria genome to other grasses and found that Setaria is an easily adaptable species: it has the capacity for drought resistance, better photosynthetic efficiency, and flowering control.
And among the chromosome reshuffling events, BGI-Shenzen's Gengyun Zhang and his team note a rearrangement in the C4 photosynthesis pathway. Additionally, they used their reference genome to map an herbicide resistance gene.
Bennetzen's team also notes the Setaria genome's potential as a tool to study switchgrass for biofuel development. "If we can find genes that affect lignin production in Setaria, they're very likely to do the same in switchgrass because they're such close relatives," Bennetzen says in a UGA press release.