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Video: Willow research at CLEREL

Larry Smart talks about the willow breeding program at the Cornell Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, Portland, N.Y.

Smart Lab publishes first detailed analysis of gene expression inheritance in Salix spp.


The heritability of gene expression is critical in understanding heterosis and is dependent on allele-specific regulation by local and remote factors in the genome.  In this study, we used RNA-Seq to test whether variation in gene expression among F1 and F2 intraspecific Salix purpurea progeny is attributable to cis– and trans-regulatory divergence using two distinct tissue types: shoot tip and stem internode.  In addition, we explored sexually dimorphic patterns of gene expression inheritance and regulatory divergence among F1 individuals.

Altogether, our results offer insight into the inheritance of gene expression in S. purpurea as well as evidence of sexually dimorphic expression which may have contributed to the evolution of dioecy in Salix.

Get the Advanced Access article now:  Carlson CH, Choi Y, Chan AP, Serapiglia MJ, Town CD, Smart LB. 2017. Dominance and sexual dimorphism pervade the Salix purpurea L. transcriptome. Genome Biology and Evolution, evx174.

Smart lab hosts two undergraduates as part of the NYSAES Summer Research Scholar Program

Each year, the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY hosts undergraduates from across the country for an eight week Summer Research Scholar program that seeks to engage students in research projects focused around one of four areas: entomology, food science, horticulture, and plant pathology.We are excited to take this opportunity to highlight our 2017 Summer Research Scholars, Jennifer Myers and Jubilee Park.

Jenny is a student at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, majoring in plant biology. After graduating, she is planning to attend graduate school in horticultural plant breeding and research. This summer, Jenny is conducting research on the genetic basis of sex determination in shrub willow.




Jubilee is a student at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, majoring in environment science. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in a plant science related field after spending a year teaching English in South Korea. Her work this summer is focused around characterizing pest resistance in a varied population of shrub willow.




More information about the Summer Research Scholar Program is available at

Impact of genotypic and environmental effects on variation in shrub willow biomass quality


Yield improvement of woody bioenergy crops has been the major focus of breeding programs, but biomass quality is also important for conversion to biofuels. Using high-resolution thermogravimetric analysis, the composition of biomass samples from two shrub willow (Salix spp.) yield trial networks representing two distinct datasets were examined. Dataset 1 consisted of 12 yield trials containing 10 genotypes that mainly represented early cultivars from the US breeding program. Dataset 2 consisted of five trial locations containing 19 genotypes from later breeding efforts. The genetic variation in wood composition as well as the ability to modify composition via management, indicate that both new genetic resources and management can be used to optimize biofuel conversion efficiency.

Go to the article now: Fabio E.S., Volk T.A., Miller R.O., Serapiglia M.J., Kemanian A.R., Montes F., Kuzovkina Y.A., Kling G.J., Smart L.B. 2017. Contributions of environment and genotype to variation in shrub willow biomass composition. Industrial Crops and Products, 108: 149-161.

Paper update: mixed model evaluation of yield in shrub willow hybrids


“The use of mixed models has allowed us to analyze a large yet unbalanced dataset of shrub willow yields in order to characterize GEI. The main findings are incremental increases in yield were achieved through traditional breeding techniques, that interspecific triploid hybrids seem to express the largest yield gains, especially in warmer environments, and that the GEI allows for the identification of cultivars adapted to low and high-yielding environments. This is critical for deploying regionally adapted and high-yielding genotypes for stands expected to be productive over 20 years. As a result of this work we have identified a number of recently bred, high-yielding triploid hybrids from diverse pedigrees that will be advanced for commercialization.”

Go to the article now: Fabio, E.S, Kemanian, A.R., Montes, F., Miller, R.O., and Smart, L.B. (2016) A mixed model approach for evaluating yield improvements in interspecific hybrids of shrub willow, a dedicated bioenergy crop. Industrial Crops and Products, 96: 57-70.

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