BioEnergy Research

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 47-54

First online:

Changes in Mean and Genetic Variance During Two Cycles of Within-family Selection in Switchgrass

  • Michael D. CaslerAffiliated withUSDA-ARS, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center Email author 


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a candidate for cellulosic bioenergy feedstock development. Because biomass yield is the most important biological factor limiting the commercial development and deployment of switchgrass as a cellulosic bioenergy feedstock efforts must be undertaken to develop improved cultivars. The objectives of this study were (1) to conduct two cycles of within-family selection for increased biomass yield in WS4U switchgrass and (2) to simultaneously evaluate progress from selection relative to the mean of the original WS4U population. Each of the 150 WS4U families was subjected to phenotypic selection for vigor, seed production, and disease resistance. The mean of all families increased relative to the original WS4U population by 0.36 Mg ha−1 cycle−1 for biomass yield and 3.0% cycle−1 for ground cover. Gains were uniform across two diverse evaluation locations, indicating that selection gains were robust relative to some variation in Hardiness Zone and soil type. Two cycles of within-family selection led to a homogenization of the diverse families, creating novel recombinations and reducing the family genetic variance to near zero. It is hypothesized that selection and recombination has led to replication of favorable alleles across pedigrees with differing genetic backgrounds, increasing the likelihood of including these favorable alleles in the progeny of future selections. The rate of genetic progress is expected to increase in future cycles of selection with a combination of within-family phenotypic selection and half-sib progeny testing of selected families.


Panicum virgatum L Biomass yield Breeding Biofuel crops