The Clemson team is using extensive sorghum genetic diversity and complementary genetic approaches (association, quantitative trait loci mapping, and expression quantitative trait loci mapping experiments in multiple controlled environment and field locations) to corroborate the discovery of useful genes and genotypes. The focus is on a bioenergy ideotype, but sweet and grain types may also possess desirable genes for biotic and abiotic stress resistance and/or compositional traits that will be useful in building the bioenergy ideotype. Biological processes affecting crop yield, performance, and composition target needed phenotyping for a systems-based approach to crop breeding and germplasm utilization. Molecular, physiological, and agronomic phenotyping methods are being established, validated, and deployed for bioenergy sorghum breeding to increase needed annual genetic gain (2% per year); in addition, more genetic materials will be developed more rapidly for utilization.
Carnegie Mellon University
The Carnegie Mellon team is charged with the development of the unmanned ground vehicle phenotyping platform for TERRA-BOOST. This serves as a mobile platform for a variety of contact and non-contact sensors to be used in the sorghum phenotyping process. This platform needs to not only reliably navigate the highly cluttered and dynamic environment that exists within the breeding plots of a sorghum field, it also needs to be capable of navigating late season bio-energy sorghum plots which can reach upwards of 20' in height. With these objectives in mind, we designed a 4 wheeled skid-steer robot packed with a suite of navigation and phenotyping sensors, the computing power necessary to handle complex computer vision algorithms, the torque required to traverse unpredictable terrain, and a high capacity battery to keep it all running for hours at a time. In addition, the Carnegie Mellon team uses machine learning to develop predictive capabilities on end-of-season sorghum performance, via data collected from the ground and aerial phenotyping platforms.
Near earth autonomy
The role of the unmanned aerial vehicle team from Near Earth Autonomy is to provide high throughput phenotyping data over the TERRA-BOOST breeding fields. Where the robotic ground systems make observations with high spatial resolution and high sensing fidelity, the aerial system observes entire fields over the course of a few minutes. Data from an ambitious set of custom selected sensors is used to resolve plots and individual plants, tracked over time to reveal phenotypic trends and correlations, contributing to the BOOST team’s mission of accelerated energy sorghum breeding.
Donald DANFORTH PLANT SCIENCE CENTER
The Danforth Center’s role involves whole-genome resequencing on a diverse set of 400 sorghum accessions in the Bioenergy Association Panel (BAP) selected by the TERRA-BOOST team to measure the landscape of genetic variation in the selected germplasm, and provide whole-genome sequences for association mapping (GWAS). In addition, the Danforth team is genotyping by sequencing at approximately 5,700 sorghum lines. The genomic data will be used to identify the differences between each line and the reference genome sequence for sorghum. Bioinformatics and quantitative genetics will be used to characterize observed genetic variation and identify genomic regions controlling biomass, plant architecture, and photosynthetic traits.