A happy accident: a novel turfgrass reference genome

Alyssa R. Phillips, Arun S. Seetharam, Patrice S. Albert, Taylor AuBuchon-Elder, James A. Birchler, Edward S. Buckler, Lynn J. Gillespie, Matthew B. Hufford, Victor Llaca, Maria Cinta Romay, Robert J. Soreng, Elizabeth A. Kellogg, Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Poa pratensis, commonly known as Kentucky bluegrass, is a popular cool-season grass species used as turf in lawns and recreation areas globally. Despite its substantial economic value, a reference genome had not previously been assembled due to the genome’s relatively large size and biological complexity that includes apomixis, polyploidy, and interspecific hybridization. We report here a fortuitous de novo assembly and annotation of a P. pratensis genome. Instead of sequencing the genome of a C4 grass, we accidentally sampled and sequenced tissue from a weedy P. pratensis whose stolon was intertwined with that of the C4 grass. The draft assembly consists of 6.09 Gbp with an N50 scaffold length of 65.1 Mbp, and a total of 118 scaffolds, generated using PacBio long reads and Bionano optical map technology. We annotated 256K gene models and found 58% of the genome to be composed of transposable elements. To demonstrate the applicability of the reference genome, we evaluated population structure and estimated genetic diversity in P. pratensis collected from three North American prairies, two in Manitoba, Canada and one in Colorado, USA. Our results support previous studies that found high genetic diversity and population structure within the species. The reference genome and annotation will be an important resource for turfgrass breeding and study of bluegrasses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjkad073
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Poaceae
  • aneuploidy
  • genetic diversity
  • genome assembly
  • polyploidy
  • population structure
  • turfgrass


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