of China Australia Food Security Cooperation Initiative (CAFSCI)

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Use and improvement of sugarcane germplasm

Overview of Project

This project aimed to provide more productive sugarcane varieties to growers and sugar industries in China and Australia by assessing genetic diversity in sugarcane germplasm collections and using wild germplasm to develop improved sugarcane clones.

Sugarcane is currently the second most important crop in southern China and its relative importance is expected to rise in the future. Sugarcane industries continue to rely heavily on development of new and more productive varieties to maintain industry viability in increasingly competitive world markets. They have invested heavily in breeding programs in the past to maintain a steady flow of more productive varieties. However, only a limited number of original progenitor clones feature in development of modern sugarcane cultivars.

Therefore, sugarcane breeders worldwide have considered it important to expand the genetic base in sugarcane. Germplasm related to sugarcane grows wild in China. During the 1980s and 1990s the Chinese government devoted significant effort to collecting this germplasm, and the Yunnan Sugar Research Institute (YSRI) now maintains much of it at the National Nursery for Sugarcane Germplasm Resources. Both Chinese and Australian sugarcane breeders have an interest in using this germplasm for sugarcane improvement.

This small sample of genetic diversity in breeding programs, combined with the knowledge that there are many desirable traits in exotic sugarcane-related germplasm, has led to strong interest in introgression of new sources of germplasm in breeding programs in Australia and China."

Key Outcomes of Project

The project was largely successful in achieving its objectives. Studies indicated a high level of genetic diversity in both Saccharum spontaneum and Erianthus arundinaceus in China, providing a basis for targeted sampling and use of this material in future breeding efforts.

Scientists obtained viable seeds from 202 crosses involving a range of S. spontaneum and E. arundinaceus clones. Using DNA markers they have to date verified 100 of these crosses as producing true hybrids. This result was significant for Erianthus sp. - this is the first report of verified fertile hybrids between Saccharum x Erianthus despite many past attempts.
Several case study populations derived from S. spontaneum and Erianthus were used to establish Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) - a form of genetic mapping - and several important loci for cane yield were identified from S. spontaneum, providing a basis for application of DNA markers in future introgression breeding of new traits into sugarcane.
The scientists observed good genetic correlations in performance of families and clones between trials in China and Australia, suggesting mutual benefits from ongoing collaboration between the two countries via exchange of selection trial results and selected germplasm.
The project team recommended ways to develop commercial outcomes from the outputs of the project to date. The genetic material generated has been incorporated into sugarcane breeding programs in China and Australia. This material is a source of new parental material for these programs and may have particular value in likely future production systems, which obtain value from both sugar and fibre (for energy) components."
Project Dates

01 Jul 2002 - 31 Dec 2007


Yunnan Sugar Research Institute - China
Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations Limited - Australia
Guangzhou Sugarcane Industry Research Institute - China
CSR - Australia
CSIRO Plant Industry - Australia


Dr Phillip Jackson



07 4753 8592

Launch Website