NEWBio Feedstock Improvement Team Breeds Better Switchgrass and Willow for the Bioeconomy

Breeding new perennial grass varieties of willow and switchgrass with useful bioenergy traits for the Northeast drives NEWBio team.

Shrub willow
Shrub Willow Canopy. Photo credit: Armen Kemanian.


Perennial crops dedicated to biomass production are just starting to be developed.  Most existing varieties of potential feedstock crops, such as switchgrass, have been bred for use as forage or conservation. But new varieties with traits that bioenergy producers require, especially high yields of biomass, will be a boon to a growing bioenergy industry. …

Larry Smart, Cornell University

Larry Smart, a professor in Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture since July 2009, is a plant geneticist and physiologist who has been a leader of efforts in genetic improvement of fast-growing shrub willow as a bioenergy crop since 1998. He has assembled a large and diverse collection of willows, which serves as a basis for traditional breeding.

Using optimized techniques for pollen extraction and controlled pollination, his group has produced more than 450 new families of willow varieties, including a …