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Tapping Sorghum's Genetic Potential

An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticist has developed new genetic resources that allow the breeding of sorghum varieties with higher grain yields and greater resistance to diseases and pests.

The work by Robert R. Klein and his colleagues is important because with climate change and water shortages, sorghum is becoming an attractive alternative to U.S. crops that require more water. Sorghum also is a critical option for staving off hunger overseas.

Decades of breeding has produced sorghum suitable for a swath of 14 States extending from Texas to South Dakota. This year’s U.S. crop is worth an estimated $1.9 billion.

Breeding new varieties for growers in the United States and other temperate regions is challenging because sorghum originated in the tropics. Many tropical sorghums flower when day lengths are short. By the time the days are short enough for flowering in temperate regions, it’s often too cold to produce a sorghum crop with sufficient grain.

Subash BGK

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