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Harnessing the power of plants
Date:8/18/2011

dly fuels. Kansas is the top producer of sorghum in the U.S., accounting for nearly half of the country's annual yield. Similarly, the U.S. is the world's largest grain sorghum exporter and ranks second in production, according to Staggenborg.

But despite the country's large production of sorghum, little data about biomass sorghum's genetics and how to improve the crop exists, outside of some USDA studies on the sorghum collection conducted many years ago. While many grain crops have had their genetics and production refined and documented for decades, the university sorghum team essentially has to start from scratch.

"Our study will sort of be a prototype with new lessons and insights into how we combine this proven method of plant breeding -- changing a plant's genetics to make more starch, more yield, or in this case, more biomass -- with this new genomic technology to optimize the improvement process," Tesso said. "In the bigger picture, this study addresses some of those emerging issues with energy and climate change."

To build the database, the team is looking at genetic diversity in sorghum's germplasm -- essentially the plant's gene bank. Members will start with 1,000 sorghum lines selected from the center of the germplasm pool. A line is the unique genetic material in sorghum. Those samples will then be genotyped, a process where the team looks at each sample's unique molecular diversity and compares it to the molecular diversity found in the sampled collection as a whole.

From those 1,000 samples, a subset of 300 samples will be chosen to represent the maximum amount of diversity, and will be studied more in depth for biomass yield and biomass composition. Once the biomass yield is found for those 300 samples, Yu and the others can then predict the biomass yield of the remaining 700 untested samples from that original 1,000 sample set.

Additionally, some field samples will chemically analyzed. Data from this ana
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Contact: Jianming Yu
jyu@k-state.edu
785-532-6094
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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