, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 251-261

QTL Mapping of Enzymatic Saccharification in Short Rotation Coppice Willow and Its Independence from Biomass Yield

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Short rotation coppice (SRC) willows (Salix spp.) are fast-growing woody plants which can achieve high biomass yields over short growth cycles with low agrochemical inputs. Biomass from SRC willow is already used for heat and power, but its potential as a source of lignocellulose for liquid transport biofuels has still to be assessed. In bioethanol production from lignocellulose, enzymatic saccharification is used as an approach to release glucose from cellulose in the plant cell walls. In this study, 138 genotypes of a willow mapping population were used to examine variation in enzymatic glucose release from stem biomass to study relationships between this trait and biomass yield traits and to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with enzymatic saccharification yield. Significant natural variation was found in glucose yields from willow stem biomass. This trait was independent of biomass yield traits. Four enzyme-derived glucose QTL were mapped onto chromosomes V, X, XI, and XVI, indicating that enzymatic saccharification yields are under significant genetic influence. Our results show that SRC willow has strong potential as a source of bioethanol and that there may be opportunities to improve the breeding programs for willows for increasing enzymatic saccharification yields and biofuel production.

Imperial College London and Rothamsted Research are members of the Porter Alliance (http://www.porteralliance.org.uk/).