A Systems Framework to Enhance the Potential of Camelina as Oilseed Crop (DE-SC0022987)
Erich Grotewold, Michigan State University, Principal Investigator
Patrick Edger, Michigan State University, Co-Investigator

To combat climate change and alleviate the dependency of the United States on fossil fuels, particularly from foreign sources, the transition to biofuel crops has long been proposed as a crucial part of the long-term solution. Camelina sativa has emerged as one of the leading commercially viable options for biofuel and bioproduct production for the U.S. Camelina has the advantages of low agronomic inputs and natural resistance to diverse biotic and abiotic stresses relative to other oilseed crops, and Camelina oil-based blends have been tested and approved as liquid transportation fuels. Furthermore, Camelina can be grown on marginal lands not suitable for growing conventional crops. Our research aims to provide knowledge and a novel set of tools that will greatly facilitate the breeding of more resilient and higher yielding cultivars. Camelina spring and winter varieties show superior abiotic stress tolerance, traits that once understood at the genetic level could be utilized in breeding programs to greatly enhance its performance and productivity. Different from other oilseed crops, Camelina sativa is a hexaploid for which two diploid

progenitor species are known and whose genomes are dominant in cultivated varieties, providing additional opportunities for crop improvement. However, a major limitation for the widespread adoption of Camelina as an industrial oilseed crop is its modest yield, and future advances will be constrained by the limited knowledge of the gene regulatory networks responsible for plant growth and responses to the environment, and by a poor understanding of the genetic diversity and gene content across Camelina accessions. Our proposal will address this shortcoming by 1) characterizing the genetic variation, gene expression and chromatin accessibility across Camelina varieties and growth conditions, and 2) developing the tools to understand and manipulate Camelina gene expression, benefitting from the ease by which Camelina can be transformed. Our studies will identify key genes and genomic regions to target in breeding efforts to enhance productivity, while providing the research community with a number of tools to understand and manipulate Camelina gene expression. Our research program builds on the established expertise, collaboration record and strong body of preliminary results of the co-PIs to develop an integrated systems-level understanding of how the Camelina genome is expressed under normal and less-favorable conditions. One important objective of this project is to make available to the community a new set of tools and resources for Camelina that have been limited in the past to model plant systems.

This project involves a number of protocols, including standardized camelina growth, floral dip transformations, embryo culturing and more!
For more information on these protocols or the projects, contact the Grant Coordinator –
Emily Pawlowski (pawlow41@msu.edu)