USDA researchers work to ensure sorghum remains economically viable crop

USDA researchers work to ensure sorghum remains economically viable crop

This year's U.S. sorghum crop is worth an estimated $1.9 billion.

Researchers from the Agricultural Research Service used both molecular and traditional breeding techniques to “convert” tall, late-flowering tropical sorghum plants into lines that mature faster and come equipped with genes for producing high grain yields.

Related: Collaborative Sorghum Investment Program aims to expand markets

The results, published in the Journal of Plant Registrations, will help ensure sorghum’s future as an economically viable crop. They also demonstrate the value of the ARS sorghum collection in Griffin, Georgia, where lines from around the world are kept viable.

Breeding new varieties for growers in the United States and other temperate regions is challenging because sorghum originated in the tropics. (Photo: ToppyBaker/Thinkstock)

Breeding new varieties for growers in the United States and other temperate regions is challenging because sorghum originated in the tropics. Many tropical sorghums flower when day lengths are short. By the time the days are short enough for flowering in temperate regions, it’s often too cold to produce a sorghum crop with sufficient grain.

ARS plant geneticist Robert Klein and his colleagues selected sorghum lines for cross breeding that were known for producing high grain yields in countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia. Because they were originally from sorghum’s center of origin in Africa, the lines selected would not flourish in temperate regions. But they had the potential to produce high grain yields while offering resistance to some of Mother Nature’s most daunting threats.

Sorghum is grown in 14 states extending from Texas to South Dakota. This year’s U.S. crop is worth an estimated $1.9 billion.

Related: U.S. Grains Council promotes sorghum in Mexico

Read more about this research in the September 2016 issue of AgResearch.

Source: USDA ARS

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