Predictive modelling for yield – bringing genotype and phenotype together

Yesterday was our final day at Bioenergy Genomics 2017. There’s quite a bit of video to sort through and process, so I’ll be busy for a while with it. We’ll be putting that up on YouTube. In the mean time, as with the previous days, here are the previews.

In the longer term, there is a special issue of Annals of Botany on biofuel crops due for next year. We also hope to have some more biofuel blogging before then.

Scaling growth, yield, and water use of mischanthus from the plot to the Midwestern United States.
Carl Bernacchi, University of Illinois, USA

The added value of natural variation in the elucidation of quantitative trait regulation.
Joost Keurentjes, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Exploring variation in water relations responses to soil water deficits within a Populus nigra wide genome association population.
Jaime Puertolas, Lancaster University, UK

Multi-trait genotype-to-phenotype models for complex traits.
Fred van Eeuwijk, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

In silico exploration of genotype x environment x management effects for short rotation willow.
Goetz Richter, Rothamsted Research, UK

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) in the UK: Contrasting Land-use Scenarios and Implications for Natural Capital.
Caspar Donnison, University of Southampton, UK
(We lost the connection briefly with this one, we’ll try splicing it together for YouTube)

My final impressions of the conference. This was a specialist meeting, so I was more out of my depth than usual will quite a few of the talks. But there were some interesting points. One is that while the participants think there’s huge potential in bioenergy crops, there are also problems to tackle. One is that bioenergy can’t be tackled as an isolated problem. There are specific problems based on genetics and traits, like drought tolerance that can be dealt with in isolation to an extent. However, if you plant a lot of thirsty Miscanthus in a location, that will have knock-on effects elsewhere, some good but also some bad.

One speaker told me that there is great potential in bioenergy, but it has to work as part of an integrated environmental programme. That will include action on conservation, biodiversity and agricultural practice. That’s going to require getting a lot of people with diverse priorities together.

I think the combination of scales, moving from the genes, to the plant, to localities, regions, nations and the global scale – along with various dimensions, from the botanical questions to economic and social challenges, is going to make bioenergy a demanding career choice. If it can be part of reduction in emissions for power generation, then it might also be highly rewarding.