Background:Lignocellulosic biomass is recognized as a promising renewable feedstock for the production of biofuels. However, current methods for converting biomass into fermentable sugars are considered too expensive and inefficient due to the recalcitrance of the secondary cell wall. Biomass composition can be modified to create varieties that are efficiently broken down to release cell wall sugars. This study focused on identifying the key biomass components influencing plant cell wall recalcitrance that can be targeted for selection in sugarcane, an important and abundant source of biomass. Results:Biomass composition and the amount of glucan converted into glucose after saccharification were measured in leaf and culm tissues from seven sugarcane genotypes varying in fiber composition after no pretreatment and dilute acid, hydrothermal and ionic liquid pretreatments. In extractives-free sugarcane leaf and culm tissue, glucan, xylan, acid-insoluble lignin (AIL) and acid-soluble lignin (ASL) ranged from 20 to 32%, 15% to 21%, 14% to 20% and 2% to 4%, respectively. The ratio of syringyl (S) to guaiacyl (G) content in the lignin ranged from 1.5 to 2.2 in the culm and from 0.65 to 1.1 in the leaf. Hydrothermal and dilute acid pretreatments predominantly reduced xylan content, while the ionic liquid (IL) pretreatment targeted AIL reduction. The amount of glucan converted into glucose after 26 h of pre-saccharification was highest after IL pretreatment (42% in culm and 63.5% in leaf) compared to the other pretreatments. Additionally, glucan conversion in leaf tissues was approximately 1.5-fold of that in culm tissues. Percent glucan conversion varied between genotypes but there was no genotype that was superior to all others across the pretreatment groups. Path analysis revealed that S/G ratio, AIL and xylan had the strongest negative associations with percent glucan conversion, while ASL and glucan content had strong positive influences. Conclusion:To improve saccharification efficiency of lignocellulosic biomass, breeders should focus on reducing S/G ratio, xylan and AIL content and increasing ASL and glucan content. This will be key for the development of sugarcane varieties for bioenergy uses.