Newly converted sorghum lines now available to seed industry
The Sorghum Checkoff is funding the re-instated Sorghum Conversion Project in conjunction with MMR Genetics (NuSeeds America) and the USDA Agricultural Research Service to increase world inventory of sorghum through newly converted germplasm.
Found naturally around the world from Australia to Sudan, sorghum originates as a tall, late flowering plant. If kept in its natural state, it could not be produced in the North American climate. This year ARS Research Geneticist Robert Klein and MMR Genetics selected 44 sources of sorghum germplasm for desirable traits, and then converted these plants into shorter, early-flowering derivatives suitable for North American farming practices.
For producers, this project signals substantial progress for the sorghum industry. The 44 new lines released this May bring possibilities for new traits, new uses, and new markets for the industry. Bruce Maunder, research advisor to the Sorghum Checkoff, said he believes the conversion project will open the door to new possibilities in development and production.
“Our goal with this program is to make more of the world’s collection of sorghum available to breeders,” said Maunder, who is a retired senior vice president of sorghum research for DEKALB Genetics. “We also hope to gain back some of the acres that were lost over the years and be more competitive with other crops.”
The term ‘re-instated’ is used to separate this project from the original conversion program that began in 1965. Results of that program, a cooperative effort between ARS and Texas A&M University, allowed breeders access to select sorghum genes for insect and disease resistance, drought tolerance, food quality, and other traits in the tropical sorghums that proved valuable to the improvement of the North American crop. These goals are essentially unchanged in the current project, as researchers and geneticists seek to find even more desirable traits that can improve our commercially available varieties.
This new material is available to public and private institutions for the development of new hybrid lines of sorghum. Seven institutions have participated in this year’s distribution, which is the first of several scheduled over the next three years. The next release, which will feature 50 newly converted lines, is anticipated for May 2013.