Tropical Grass Genetic Breakthrough to Help Develop Climate-Friendly Cattle Farms

April 17, 2019

Researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have shown that Brachiaria grass species reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle and increase productivity. Considered an orphan crop, the breeding process for Brachiaria grasses is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

Margaret Worthington, a geneticist at CIAT and the University of Arkansas, and colleagues created the first dense molecular map of B. humidicola, a robust and environmentally friendly forage grass. They also identified the candidate genes for the plant's asexual reproductive mechanism, which is a huge asset for plant breeders. With this molecular marker, plant breeders can run a quick and inexpensive test when Brachiaria grasses are at seedling stage to identify whether they reproduce through apomixis. Results are available in a couple of weeks, allowing plant breeders to select only asexually reproductive plants for trials, and to allocate more time and resources to plants that have the potential to produce new cultivars.

Similarly, a recent study found that B. humidicola was especially adept at reducing the nitrous oxide, a strong greenhouse gas, which is emitted from the soil from cattle urine. In addition, CIAT researchers have identified mechanisms that this tropical grass uses to efficiently acquire nutrients from soil.

For more details, read the article from CIAT.