Shapter, FM, Henry, RJ, Malory, S & Chivers, I 2008, ‘Domestication of Australian grasses as bioenergy crops’, paper presented to 6th National Native Grasslands Conference – Regenerative Native Grassland Management for Profitable, Ecological and Social Gains, Horsham, Vic., 9-11 November.
Due to geographic isolation and a short agricultural history, plant species from Australia have not been subject to domestication in the same way as species from other parts of the world. Around 10% of the world’s grasses, over 1000 species, are found in Australia. Traits that have been selected in the domestication of major cereal crops have now been defined and key genes characterized. These loci are being targeted in an effort to accelerate the domestication of selected Australian grasses for a range of uses including pastures, food and energy. Biomass traits for energy production include some of the traditional domestication traits but also extend to other traits not selected in domestication for food or feed. Microlaena stipoides, a distant relative of rice is currently a key target for domestication. The rice genome sequences and genomics data for other Oryza are key genomics resources for this species. Natural variation and targeted mutagenesis are being explored as options for identifying desirable genotypes for domestication. Endonucleolytic mutation analysis by internal labelling (EMAIL) and large scale SNP analyses are being developed for application to this system. This model of accelerated domestication has the potential to be utilised across a broad range of useful wild species.