Feedstock Development

The goal of Feedstock Development is to develop new and improved perennial grass cultivars and hybrids that can be used on marginal cropland in the Central US for the production of biomass for bioenergy and bioproducts.

Our Feedstock Development team members have produced an extensive resource library with material for everyone involved in the development of perennial grasses. Click the links below to jump to each one on the page:

Project Directors

  • Rob Mitchell, USDA Agricultural Research Service (Northern Plains)
  • Mike Casler, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center


  • Akwasi Boateng, USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Bruce Dien, USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Tiffany Heng-Moss, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
  • Ken Moore, Iowa State University
  • Gary Yuen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

2017 Overview

CenUSA Feedstock Development Creates Improved Switchgrass Varieties (Mar. 2017)

  • The CenUSA Feedstock Development Team identifies gene pools and genetic diversity for improved switchgrass varieties and increased yields.

Research Summaries

Research Finds Strong Genetic Diversity in Switchgrass Gene Pools (Feb. 2017)

  • CenUSA's Michael D. Casler (Research Geneticist, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center) shows how genetic diversity in native switchgrass populations will benefit new varieties developed for biofuel production and ecosystem services.

Near-Infrared (NIR) Analysis Provides Efficient Evaluation of Biomass Samples (Jan. 2015)

  • CenUSA's Bruce Dien (Bioenergy Research Unit, ARS, Peoria, IL) shows how near-infrared analysis allows plant breeders and biorefiners to rapidly measure the composition of a biomass sample.

Fact Sheets

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) for Biofuel Production (Nov. 2016)

  • Rob Mitchell and Ken Vogel (USDA-ARS Grain, Forage, and Bioenergy Research Unit, Lincoln, NE) and Mary Schmer (USDA-ARS Northern Great Plains Research Lab, Mandan, ND) present an overview of switchgrass and biofuel production.

Plant Breeders Create New and Better Switchgrass Varieties for Biofuels (Mar. 2014)

  • CenUSA's Michael D. Casler (Research Geneticist, U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center) discusses how through  innovations such as new hybrids, delayed flowering, and genomics, plant breeders hope to double biomass yields of switchgrass and other bioenergy crops by 2020.

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

  • Casler, M.D. (2014). Heterosis and reciprocal-cross effects in tetraploid switchgrass. Crop Sci. 54(5):2063. doi:10.2135/cropsci2013.12.0821.
  • Casler, M.D. & Vogel, K.P. 2014. Selection for biomass yield in upland, lowland, and hybrid switchgrass. Crop Sci. 54(2):626. doi: 10.2135/cropsci2013.04.0239.
  • Coulman, B., A. Dalai, E.A. Heaton, M. Lefsrud M., D. Levin P.G. Lemaux, D. Neale, S.P. Shoemaker, J. Singh D.L. Smith & J.K. Whalen. 2013. Developments in crops and management systems to improve lignocellulosic feedstock production. BioFPR 7:582-601. 10.1002/bbb.1418. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09593330.2013.833640. (Abstract).
  • Dien, B. S., P.J. O’Bryan, R.E. Hector, L.B. Iten, R.B. Mitchell, N. Qureshi, S. Gautum , K.P. Vogel, & M.A. Cotta. 2013. Conversion of switchgrass to ethanol using dilute ammonium hydroxide pretreatment: influence of ecotype and harvest maturity. Environ. Technol. 34:13-14.Koch, K., R.
  • Fithian, T. Heng-Moss, J. Bradshaw, G. Sarath, G. & C. Spilker. 2014. Evaluation of tetraploid switchgrass (Poales: Poaceae) populations for host suitability and differential resistance to four cereal aphids. J. Econ. Entomol. 107(1):424-431.
  • Jahufer, M.Z.Z. & M.D. Casler. 2014. Application of the Smith-Hazel selection index for improving biomass yield and quality of switchgrass. Crop Sci. 55(3):1212.
  • Koch, K., N. Palmer, M. Stamm, J. Bradshaw, E. Blankenship, L. Baird, G. Sarath & T. Heng-Moss. 2015. Characterization of Greenbug Feeding Behavior and Aphid (Hemiptera: Aphididae) Host Preference in Relation to Resistant and Susceptible Tetraploid Switchgrass Populations. Bioenerg. Res. 8:165-174. doi:10.1007/s12155-014-9510-0.
  • Nichols, V.A., F.E. Miguez, M.E. Jarchow, M.Z. Liebman & B.S. Dien 2014. Comparison of cellulosic ethanol yields from midwestern maize and reconstructed tallgrass prairie systems managed for bioenergy. Bioenerg. Res. 7: 1550. doi: 10.1007/s12155-014-9494-9.
  • Price, D.L. & M.D. Casler. 2014. Divergent selection for secondary traits in upland tetraploid switchgrass and effects on sward biomass yield. BioEnergy Res. 7(1):329–337. doi: 10.1007/s12155-013-9374-8.
  • Price, D.L. & M.D. Casler. 2014. Inheritance of secondary morphological traits for among-and-within-family selection in upland tetraploid switchgrass. Crop Sci. 54(2):646-653. doi: 10.2135/cropsci2013.04.0273.
  • Price, D. L. & M.D. Casler. 2014. Predictive relationships between plant morphological traits and biomass yield in switchgrass. Crop Sci. 54(2):637. doi: 10.2135/cropsci2013.04.0272.
  • Ramstein, G.P., J. Evans S.M. Kaeppler, R.B. Mitchell, K.P. Vogel, C.R. Buell & M.D. Casler. 2015. Accuracy of genomic prediction in switchgrass improved by accounting for linkage disequilibrium. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genet. 6(4):1049-1062. doi: 10.1534/g3.115.024950. https://www.g3journal.org/content/6/4/1049.full (Open Access).
  • Resende, R.M.S., M.D.V. Resende & M.D. Casler. 2013. Selection methods in forage breeding: a quantitative appraisal. Crop Sci. 53:1925-1936. doi:10.2135/cropsci2013.03.0143.
  • Resende, R.M.S., M.D. Casler & M.D.V. de Resende, M.D.V. (2014). Genomic selection in forage breeding: Accuracy and methods. Crop Sci. 54:143-156. doi: 10.2135/cropsci2013.05.0353.
  • Schaeffer, S., F. Baxendale, T. Heng-Moss, R. Sitz, G. Sarath, R. Mitchell, & R. Shearman. 2011. Characterization of the arthropod community associated with switchgrass Poales: Poaceae in Nebraska. J. Kans. Entomol. Soc. 84(2): 87-104. https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/54245/PDF.
  • Serapiglia, M.J., B. Dien, A.A. Boateng & M.D. Casler. 2016. Impact of harvest time and switchgrass cultivar on sugar release through enzymatic hydrolysis. BioEnergy Res. DOI: 10.1007/s12155-016-9803-6
  • Slininger, P.J., B.S. Dien, C.P. Kurtzman, B.R. Moser, E.L. Bakota , S.R. Thompson, P.J. O’Bryan, M.A. Cotta, V. Balan, M. Jin, M.D. Sousa & B.E. Dale. 2016. Comparative lipid production by oleaginous yeasts in hydrolyzates of lignocellulosic biomass and process strategy for high titers. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 113: 1676–1690. doi: 10.1002/bit.25928.
  • Stewart C.L., J.D. Pyle, K.P. Vogel, G.Y. Yuen & K.G. Scholthof. 2015. Multi-year pathogen survey of biofuel switchgrass breeding plots reveals high prevalence of infections by Panicum mosaic virus and its satellite virus. Phytopathology 105:1146-1154. Jahufer, M.Z.Z. & M.D. Casler. 2014. Application of the Smith-Hazel selection index for improving biomass yield and quality of switchgrass. Crop Sci. 55(3):1212. doi: 10.2135/cropsci2014.08.0575.
  • Vogel, K.P., R.B. Mitchell, G. Sarath & M.D. Casler. 2014. Registration of ‘Liberty’ switchgrass. J. Plant Registrations 8(3):242. doi: 10.3198/jpr2013.12.0076crc.
  • Vogel, K.P., G. Sarath & R.B. Mitchell. 2014. Micromesh fabric pollination bags for switchgrass. Crop Sci. 54(4): 1621-1623. doi: 10.2135/cropsci2013.09.0647.

Instructional Videos and Webinars

Plant Breeding to Improve Yield and Sustainability of Perennial Grasses 

  • Michael Casler (Research Geneticist, USDA ARS), discusses characteristics of different switchgrasses, the perennial grass breeding process, and how the CenUSA project has used plant breeding to improve grasses for use as a biofuel feedstock. [4:34]

Entomology Research: Examining Insect Populations and Exploring Natural Plant Resistance 

  • Tiffany Heng-Moss (Entomology, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln) explains efforts to survey insect populations, explore natural resistance in feedstocks, and how these preliminary findings will ultimately benefit producers in the future. [4:07]

Plant Pathogen Risk Analysis for Bioenergy Switchgrass Grown in the Central USA

  • Plant pathologist Gary Yuen (Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln) is studying various pathogens capable of infecting switchgrass, new switchgrass varieties, and their response to pathogen infection. [7:35]

Switchgrass and Perennial Grasses, Biomass and Biofuels - Part 1 and Part 2

  • Ken Vogel (USDA-ARS) provides an overview of how switchgrass and other perennial grasses can provide the biomass needed to produce biofuels at the CenUSA Switchgrass Establishment Field Day held March 20, 2012, in Mead, Nebraska [32:24]

Switchgrass Production Industry Perspectives

  • CenUSA Bioenergy Advisory Board member David Stock (President of Stock Seed Farms) provides an industry perspective to attendees of the CenUSA Switchgrass Establishment Field Day held March 2012, in Mead, Nebraska. [23:00]

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)