Send Us Switchgrass

We are conducting long-term research on switchgrass across North America to understand how it evolved adaptations and changed distributions through previous cycles of glaciation. This large project is known as the Switchgrass Genetic & Environment Network Experiment (S-GENE). The results of this research will be used to breed high-yielding regionally adapted switchgrass for the production of sustainable bioenergy and bioproducts. To make our research successful, we are requesting that you send us seed collected in 2020 from your local area in the continental United States.

Instructions on collections and shipping:

  1. Identify the location of switchgrass in your area with herbarium records or using data on distributions of switchgrass from iNaturalist.
  2. Collect mature seeds into envelopes, where seeds from no more than one individual plant are collected into a single envelope.
  3. Write the GPS coordinates and habitat type (prairie, riparian, road side, etc.) of the collection on the envelop.
  4. Ship seeds by mail to us at: David Lowry, Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University, 612 Wilson Road Rm. 166, East Lansing, MI, 48824.
  5. Make sure to include your name and return address, so that we can send you a certificate as a contributor to the S-GENE project.

We are in particular need of collections from Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, eastern Indiana, western Ohio, eastern Iowa, western North Dakota, eastern Montana, northern Wisconsin, northern Michigan, and the southern Appalachian mountains. We are most interested in natural populations of switchgrass. Please avoid intentional human plantings of switchgrass, as these are often horticultural varieties that will not be useful in our studies.

You can see some of the diversity of switchgrass plants that are now plant in Michigan as part of the S-GENE project.


What switchgrass looks like growing in a native prairie.


Our current set of collections. Notice that there are gaps we really want to fill in. Tetraploid collections are labelled red and octoploid accessions are in blue.