BACKGROUND: Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a warm-season perennial grass that can be used as a second generation bioenergy crop. However, foliar fungal pathogens, like switchgrass rust, have the potential to significantly reduce switchgrass biomass yield. Despite its importance as a prominent bioenergy crop, a genome-wide comprehensive analysis of NB-LRR disease resistance genes has yet to be performed in switchgrass. RESULTS: In this study, we used a homology-based computational approach to identify 1011 potential NB-LRR resistance gene homologs (RGHs) in the switchgrass genome (v 1.1). In addition, we identified 40 RGHs that potentially contain unique domains including major sperm protein domain, jacalin-like binding domain, calmodulin-like binding, and thioredoxin. RNA-sequencing analysis of leaf tissue from ‘Alamo’, a rust-resistant switchgrass cultivar, and ‘Dacotah’, a rust-susceptible switchgrass cultivar, identified 2634 high quality variants in the RGHs between the two cultivars. RNA-sequencing data from field-grown cultivar ‘Summer’ plants indicated that the expression of some of these RGHs was developmentally regulated. CONCLUSIONS: Our results provide useful insight into the molecular structure, distribution, and expression patterns of members of the NB-LRR gene family in switchgrass. These results also provide a foundation for future work aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying disease resistance in this important bioenergy crop.