Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 88, Issue 5, pp 823–834 | Cite as

Genetic diversity analysis of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) populations using microsatellites and chloroplast sequences

  • Madhugiri Nageswara-Rao
  • Micaha Hanson
  • Sujata Agarwal
  • C. Neal StewartJr.
  • Charles Kwit


The agricultural landscape of the United States could soon be changed by planting of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) cultivars to meet government-mandated targets for lignocellulosic bioenergy production and consumption. This alteration could affect the genetic structure of wild switchgrass populations, which are native to the eastern half of North America through cultivar introgression. In this study, PCR amplification of microsatellite fragments as well as chloroplast gene-specific markers were utilized to quantify the genetic diversity and structure of five native populations and three agronomic fields (hereafter ‘populations’) planted with switchgrass cultivars. Microsatellite polymorphism across all the switchgrass populations ranged from 91.4 to 100 %. Overall, natural switchgrass populations had significantly higher mean genetic diversity than agronomic switchgrass cultivars (0.262 ± 0.102 and 0.201 ± 0.082 respectively, t test p < 0.008). Natural switchgrass populations had significantly higher total genetic diversity within (HS) and among (HT) as compared to agronomic switchgrass cultivars. A clear separation of natural and agronomic switchgrass populations was noted using principal component analysis and STRUCTURE analysis. A grouping pattern similar to that obtained in the microsatellite study was observed when chloroplast nucleotide sequence variation was assessed. In the realm of bioenergy sustainability, our results highlight the need to consider the genetic structure of cultivars for bioenergy when they are grown in proximity to native switchgrass populations.


Agronomic cultivars Biofuel Chloroplast nucleotide sequencing Conservation and restoration Genetic variability Natural populations 



We thank numerous people who facilitated and assisted with field work, including B. Black, S. Bobzin, T. Crabtree, S. Jackson. We also thank G. Wein, X. Yang, D. Hadziabdic, R. Govindarajulu and P. A. Wadl for their assistance with laboratory and logistical assistance. Permits to collect switchgrass tissue from Tennessee State Natural Areas were obtained through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. This project was supported by Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant Program competitive Grant No. 2010-39211-21699 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as well as by Building Research Interest and Developing Global Engagement (BRIDGE), an Inter-College Undergraduate Research Funding Opportunity, awarded to M. Hanson. Neal Stewart Jr. also received support from the BioEnergy Science Center, a Bioenergy Research Center, supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the US Department of Energy Office of Science and funding from NIFA to the University of Tennessee Integrated Biomass Supply Systems (IBSS) Center.

Supplementary material

10457_2014_9728_MOESM1_ESM.doc (580 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 580 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madhugiri Nageswara-Rao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Micaha Hanson
    • 1
  • Sujata Agarwal
    • 1
  • C. Neal StewartJr.
    • 1
    • 3
  • Charles Kwit
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyNew Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA
  3. 3.BioEnergy Science CenterOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Forestry, Wildlife and FisheriesUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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