Scientists Develop Higher Yielding Sorghum Plants
by Dennis O’brien And Sharon Durham (Phys.Org) … It is drought tolerant, can thrive in poor soils, requires little or no fertilizer, and will grow in a wide range of temperatures and altitudes. Sorghum grain is used in breakfast cereals, in ethanol production, as feed for livestock, as a source of sugar for syrup and molasses, and in construction and packaging materials. It also produces large amounts of plant material, making it potentially useful for cellulosic ethanol production.
“There are parts of the world where people depend on sorghum for their survival, but in the United States, it’s a viable alternative crop for growers concerned about future droughts or the rising temperatures that might accompany climate change,” says Merle Vigil, an Agricultural Research Service soil scientist and research leader in the Central Plains Resources Management Research Unit in Akron, Colorado.
Sorghum is also the focus of extensive research, and Vigil along with ARS researcher Greg McMaster and Colorado State University researchers Sally Sauer and Jerry Johnson, recently found a new way to exploit sorghum’s potential. They found that by using certain cropping strategies, growers can produce sorghum in parts of northeastern Colorado where the growing season was previously considered too short. Meanwhile, another team of ARS scientists working in Texas has developed a new line of sorghum that could dramatically increase grain yields.
In other sorghum studies, molecular biologist Zhanguo Xin, plant geneticist Gloria Burow, and lab director John Burke, at the ARS Cropping Systems Research Laboratory in Lubbock, Texas, have bred a mutant sorghum plant that produces 30 to 40 percent more seeds.
The researchers developed the higher yielding sorghum by taking advantage of a plant part called a “spikelet.” A spikelet is a cluster of florets found in the panicle and is a characteristic of other grasses, such as millet or rye. Sorghum produces two types of spikelets: the sessile spikelets and the pedicellate spikelets. Normally, only the sessile spikelets are fertile, but the ARS scientists developed a plant that produces seeds in both types of spikelets. READ MORE and MORE (Ethanol Producer Magazine)