Australian research discovers gene to increase size, yield of sorghum

2021-09-28 15:08

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SYDNEY, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Geneticists from Australia's University of Queensland (UQ) have discovered a gene that could increase the grain size and potential yield of the drought-resistant crop, sorghum, according to a research unveiled on Tuesday.

Professor David Jordan from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), an organisation that seeks to find sustainable agriculture and food solutions, said their findings could bear major implications for people around the world.

"Sorghum has been an important dietary source of starch in Africa for thousands of years, but it is increasingly valued in Western diets as a low-GI, gluten-free and nutritious grain."

Grain sorghum has been widely grown in Australia since the late 1930s, and has proved itself as a crop well suited to Australia's arid conditions.

Jordan's research first began six years ago when he teamed up with Dr. Yongfu Tao from UQ, who initially mapped the sorghum genome to identify which genes were associated with grain size. Tao said new variants are now "capable of doubling grain weight."

"These traits are strongly inherited, with genes accounting for as much as 80 percent of the grain size characteristics."

Tao told Xinhua the selection of traits for large grain had minimal impact on the crop's water and nitrogen requirements, which could have major implications for creating a more efficient and environmentally friendly source of food.

"Sorghum is already a staple food for over 500 million people in the semiarid tropics of Africa and Asia, where food security remains most challenging."

"I hope our study would lead to development of higher-yielding sorghum varieties to give farmers in these regions an extra amount of sorghum grain during harvesting."

Jordan told Xinhua it has taken thousands of attempts to tease out this super sorghum, and the next step will be adapting it to different climatic conditions.

"What we're trying to do is get something that performs well across all environments, not just something that goes really well in one environment and in a dry heat would be terrible."

The research has been published in the Plant Journal.
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