Agronomy and Horticulture Department



Robert B. Mitchell

Date of this Version



Mitchell, R.B., Vogel, K.P., Tunnell, S.J. and Stubbendieck, J.L. (2023) Does Selection for Seedling Tiller Number in Perennial Biomass Feedstocks Translate to Yield and Quality Improvements in Mature Swards? American Journal of Plant Sciences , 14, 1223-1234.


Copyright © 2023 by author(s) and Scientific Research Publishing Inc. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY 4.0).


Breeding for seedling traits in herbaceous perennial biomass feedstocks that translate into increased biomass yield or quality in established swards could accelerate the development of perennial grass cultivars for bioenergy or forage. In previously reported research, breeding for single large tillers (ST) or multiple tillers (MT, ≥3) six weeks after planting for two generations in big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) base populations produced ST and MT populations that differed significantly for seedling and mature plant traits including biomass yield in spaced planted nurseries. Our objective was to evaluate these ST and MT populations in sward trials to determine the effect of these genetic changes on biomass yield and quality when the plants were grown in competitive sward conditions. Big bluestem monocultures of the base, ST, and MT populations were evaluated at three locations in Nebraska in 2001 and 2002 as randomized complete block experiments with four replicates. Switchgrass monocultures of the base, ST, and MT populations were evaluated in 2003, 2004, and 2005 near Mead, NE as a randomized complete block with six replicates. In both big bluestem and switchgrass, the ST and MT populations did not consistently differ from the base population or each other for biomass yield or forage quality. These results demonstrate the importance of evaluating perennial grasses in sward trials and not relying solely on greenhouse-grown plants or space-planted nurseries to develop selection criteria and make selection decisions.