A major stumbling block in using switchgrass or any perennial grass as a biofuel crop is the difficulty in breaking down its cell walls, an essential step in producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass. Brachypodium may hold the key to finding ways to produce plant cell walls that are easy to break down, Vogel said.Vogel developed a method with a very high success rate for inserting genes into brachypodium. He, Garvin and their colleagues are spearheading efforts to promote brachypodium as an experimental model. They shared brachypodium seeds with more than 300 labs in 25 countries and gave scientists worldwide free access to a draft sequence of the brachypodium genome long before the work was formally published. The sequencing project was carried out through the DOE-JGI Community Sequencing Program.
More on the Brachy project at the USDA-ARS website.