Work Package 2
Pre-breeding and selection of grasses
The candidate energy crops so far identified are largely undomesticated and have not undergone the centuries of improvement that characterise our current major food crops (Koonin, 2006; Vermerris, 2008). This even applies also to cocksfoot, tall fescue and reed canary grass where breeding started only in recent decades. The requirement will be to select appropriate species and genotypes that are adapted to the local soil and climatic conditions which exist in marginal areas.
Selection criteria need to be based on the triple goals of maximising productivity, minimising inputs and maximising utilisation for energy production. Some of the traits of particular interest in breeding programmes are drought tolerance, frost tolerance, maintenance of growth at low temperature, chemical composition, resistance to pests and diseases, altering plant architectural features such as dwarf structure and erect leaves and differences in photosynthetic capacity.