Document Type



Biotechnology | Botany | Plant Sciences


A native of North America, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a hardy rhizomatous perennial with an expansive range. The U.S. Department of Energy has identified switchgrass as a promising biofuel crop for low-input agriculture and marginal lands (Fig. 1). This has prompted research on improvement through genetic modification (GM). Before any new GM crop can be released, regulators must evaluate not only the modified plants, but also potential negative impacts to the environment. For example, hybridization between closely-related species could result in the transfer of GM traits to relatives (gene flow) creating new weeds or invasives. The objective of this research program is to assess the potential for gene flow and ecological risks from the future release of GM switchgrasses in New England.