he marsh grasses Distichlis spicata and Sporobolus virginicus were regenerated from tissue cultures and propagated in a greenhouse. Selected regenerants, along with selections from natural populations of each species, were planted in a common garden and flood-irrigated thrice weekly with tidal creek water. Significant intraspecific differences among regenerant and natural population selections of each species were found in several functionally important salt marsh plant characteristics, including potential detritus production, belowground organic matter production, and canopy structure. Combinations of characteristics not found in the natural populations were evident in regenerated lines. For example, belowground biomass in Sporobolus was least in a regenerant line that also exhibited higher aboveground biomass than other lines. One of the Distichlis regenerants exhibited both a high detritus production potential and a high decomposition rate, a combination not found in the natural populations studied. For both species, the amount of variation that occurred among regenerants via somaclonal variation was similar to that which occurred among the natural population selections. Results of this study suggest that tissue culture may provide a means of propagating marsh grasses with specific characteristics for directing the functional development of newly created salt marshes.

Funding Source: NOAA Estuarine Habital Program

Callus culture
Plants are put into callus culture, during which phase much genetic variation can occur.

Callus placed on a media to stimulate plant regeneration
After callus development, callus is placed on a media which stimulates plant regeneration.

Planting of regenerated plants

Regenerated plants are planted in buckets with drainage holes and then placed into a saltwater-irrigated field plot.

Experimental plants
Here the experimental plants are grown in the same environment and then evaluated for valuable characteristics with regards to marsh development and function.

Jiangbo Wang
Doctoral student Jiangbo Wang working to tissue culture six more salt marsh plant species.

Dr. Denise Seliskar

Dr. Denise Seliskar

Halophyte Biotechnology Center

Dr. John Gallagher

May 17, 2010
Questions/comments contact: connie@udel.edu