Gene study shows how to get more out of sorghum without affecting natural resources

The sorghum variety jowar is one of India’s most important food and fodder crops

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 29 September 2021
Genes linked with bigger sorghum grains discovered. Photo: iStock

Genes that can increase the grain size of sorghum, a versatile grain crop used for human consumption, fodder and bioenergy generation, have been discovered, according to a new report. 

Bigger grain size can improve the usage value of the crop, scientists from the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, who conducted the study, said.

The variety of the crop found in India is called jowar. It is said to have its origin in the country and is one of its most important food and fodder crops. Jowar has a dedicated All-India Coordinated Research Project since 1969. 

Top 10 Jowar producers in India

Source: Apeda Agriexchange

Sorghum plants are very hardy and can withstand high temperature and drought conditions. 

“Larger grains make it more digestible for both people and animals and improves processing efficiency,” said David Jordan, professor at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI).

About 80 per cent of the crop’s grain size characteristics depend on genes, and can thus be inherited, according to QAAFI Research Fellow Yongfu Tao. The quality of the yield can be improved without much alterations to environmental resources, such as water or nitrogen, he added. 

Tao used genetic information available for other cereals such as rice and wheat to identify the genes associated with grain size on the sorghum genome. 

Wild varieties of domesticated sorghum and Australian native sorghum were studied for over six years, the report stated. 

“New variants have been identified that are capable of doubling grain weight,” the scientist said. He added: 

As many as 125 regions in the sorghum genome have now been identified where variation in the DNA sequence was associated with grain size and response to environmental conditions.

The findings were published in The Plant Journal last month.

The grain is popular across the world because it has a low glycaemic index, is gluten-free and nutritious, according to the authors of the report. The lower the glycemic index of a cereal, the lower is the relative rise in blood glucose level after two hours of consuming it. 

The research was funded by the Australian Research Council, with support from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and UQ.

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