Collecting wild Miscanthus germplasm in Asia for crop improvement and conservation in Europe whilst adhering to the guidelines of the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity

Lin S Huang* (Corresponding Author), Richard Flavell, Iain S Donnison, Yu-Chung Chiang, Astley Hastings, Charlotte Hayes, Chris Heidt, Hao Hong, Tsai-Wen Hsu, Mervyn Humphreys, Julian Jackson, John Norris, Kai-Uwe Schwarz, Michael Squance, Timothy Swaller, Ian David Thomas, Wilfriede Van Assche, Qingguo Xi, Toshihiko Yamada, Sue YouellJohn Clifton-Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background and Aims
Germplasm with diverse, agronomically relevant traits forms the foundation of a successful plant breeding programme. Since 1993, the United Nations has been advocating the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the subsequent 2002 Bonn Guidelines as international best practice on germplasm collection and use. In 2006, a European team made an expedition to Asia to collect wild germplasm of Miscanthus, a C4 perennial rhizomatous grass, for breeding an environmentally adaptable, resilient and high-yielding bioenergy crop. We outline general aspects of germplasm collection, conservation, breeding and biomass production evaluation while following the CBD’s guidelines, respecting biodiversity and conservation needs, and the ethical use of genetic resources.

Effective protocols, quarantine, methods for collecting seed and rhizomes, and a genebank for conservation were established. Versatile informatics and database architecture were used to assist in selection, flowering synchronization, crossing, evaluation, phenotyping and data integration. Approaches were formulated to comply with the CBD guidelines.

Key Results
A total of 303 accessions of M. sinensis, M. sacchariflorus and M. floridulus were collected from 158 geographically and environmentally diverse locations. These species were shown to accumulate different amounts of aerial biomass due to combinations of stem count, height and thickness. Progeny from one interspecies cross accumulated more biomass in early trials and has shown double the yield performance in years 3–4 compared with the existing commercial cultivar M. × giganteus. An example of an F1 hybrid has already demonstrated the long-term potential of exploiting this collection for a breeding programme.

By conforming to the CBD principles, the authors’ international collaboration provides a practical example of implementing the CBD. The collection widened the genetic diversity of Miscanthus available to allow for breeding of novel hybrids that exhibit more diverse traits to increase yield and resilience for growth on marginal land and in climate-challenged environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-604
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number4
Early online date22 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Dr Helen Ougham and Professor Howard Thomas for their valuable comments on this manuscript; Sarah Hawkins at IBERS for the leading of harvesting and phenotyping works; and Paul Barber at Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate, Wales & West Midlands, Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for advice on germplasm collection practice and quarantine management. This research was supported by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) under a project entitled ‘Accession of CBD compliant Miscanthus and Triarrhena germplasm from China, Japan and Taiwan for incorporation in the UK Miscanthus breeding programme’ [grant no. NF0436]. The breeding and evaluation were conducted under ‘Genetic improvement of Miscanthus as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy in the UK (GIANT)’ [supported by Defra and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC, ‘Research Councils UK’), UK, grant no. LK0863]. LH, ID and JCB were supported by BBSRC grant nos BBS/E/G/00003134 and BBS/E/W/0012843A.


  • Miscanthus
  • bioenergy
  • plant breeding
  • germplasm collection
  • germplasm evaluation
  • Convention on Biological Diversity
  • CBD
  • the Nagoya Protocol
  • conservation
  • biodiversity
  • Bonn Guidelines
  • ethical use of genetic resources
  • LAND


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