Although sorghum lines underwent adaptation to be grown in temperate climates decades ago, a University of Illinois researcher said he and his team have completed the first comprehensive genomic analysis of the molecular changes behind that adaptation…
Patrick Brown is working on the project through the Energy Biosciences Institute at the U of I, hoping to use the sorghum findings as a launching pad for working with complex genomes of other feedstocks…
To adapt the drought-resistant, tropical sorghum to temperate climates, Brown explained that sorghum lines were converted over the years by selecting and crossing exotic lines with temperate-adapted lines to create lines that were photoperiod-insensitive for early maturity, as well as shorter plants that could be machine-harvested.
“Surprisingly no one had ever really genotyped these lines to figure out what had happened when they were adapted,” Brown said. “Now that genotyping is cheap, you can get a lot of data for a modest investment…”
While much improvement has been done for grain sorghum, Brown said little improvement has been done for sweet or bioenergy types.
“Part of the reason for caring about all of that now is that up to this point sorghum has mostly been grown for grain. It’s pretty short stuff, doesn’t blow over on the windy high plains, and is really hardy. But now there is a lot of interest in using sorghum for other things, such as growing sweet sorghum in areas where they grow sugarcane, and growing biomass sorghum for bioenergy through combustion or cellulosic technology…”
“We’ll be able to start moving forward. We’ll basically be able to breed all these sorghum types more easily and use the genes that we bred for in grain sorghum over the last hundred years and move them into sweet sorghum and biomass sorghum. We think that finding those genes is going to be critical,” he said.
Sorghum is certainly easy enough to grow. RTFA for an understanding of the different directions this research is capable of leading to. It’s a delight that scientists can stack up an abundance of opportunity in research before them because of the genomic tools we now have.