Australian grasses represent a significant and diverse resource that has not been subjected to domestication. Around 10% of the world’s grasses, more than 1000 species, are found in Australia. Due to geographic isolation and a short agricultural history, plant species from Australia have not been subject to domestication in the same way as species from other parts of the world. Traits that have been selected in the domestication of major cereal crops have now been defined and key genes characterized. These loci are being targeted in an effort to accelerate the domestication of selected Australian grasses for a range of uses including pastures, food and energy. Biomass traits for energy production include some of the traditional domestication traits but also extend to other traits not selected in domestication for food or feed. Microlaena stipoides, a distant relative of rice is currently a key target for domestication. Natural variation and targeted mutagenesis are being explored as options for identifying desirable genotypes for domestication. Endonucleolytic mutation analysis by internal labelling (EMAIL) and large scale SNP analyses are being developed for application to this system. This model of accelerated domestication has the potential to be utilised across a broad range of useful species.
Shapter, FM, Henry, RJ, Malory, S & Chivers, I 2008, ‘Domestication of Australian grasses’, paper presented to Harlan II. An International Symposium Biodiversity in agricultue: domestication, evolution, & sustainability, University of California, Davis, 14 - 18 September.