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."
Getting a complete map of the traits researchers are most interested in -- plant height and maturity -- will help researchers unlock the diversity in the exotic lines and bring it into grain sorghum, Brown said.
"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.
Even with this complete genetic map, Brown said the research is still not at the end point.
"The case I always make is that over here we have grain sorghum, where we've done almost all the plant breeding, and where we've stacked the good genes. Over here we've got exotic sorghum, which hasn't been improved at all, yet it's where most of the genetic diversity is. For that genetic diversity to be useful to grain sorghum, we need to know where the genes are for height and maturity so we can bring in good diversity while keeping our grain sorghum short and early like we need it," he said.
On the other hand, Brown added that if improvements are to be made for sweet, forage, or biomass sorghum, researchers will need to bring i
|Contact: Stephanie Henry|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences