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New forage plant prepares farmers for climate changes

University of Copenhagen avril 2012

University of Copenhagen, have developed a new type of the corn-like crop sorghum, which may become very significant for food supplies in drought-prone areas ; this new type does not form toxic cyanide when exposed to long-term drought

University of Copenhagen 04/04/2012

Researchers, including plant researchers from the University of Copenhagen, have developed a new type of the corn-like crop sorghum, which may become very significant for food supplies in drought-prone areas. Unlike the conventional drought-resistant sorghum plant, which is an important crop in e.g. Africa, China and the USA, this new type does not form toxic cyanide when exposed to long-term drought. Consequently, farmers in drought areas will no longer need to discard their sorghum crops in future.

Sorghum, or durra, is an important forage crop in many countries, for example the USA, Africa, China and Australia. The plant is grown instead of corn because it produces more biomass and better withstands long periods of drought. However, when exposed to drought, the sorghum plant produces large amounts of dhurrin, which forms toxic cyanide, i.e. Prussic acid.

The fact that the sorghum plant produces large amounts of the natural cyanogenic glycoside dhurrin when exposed to drought is a serious problem for farmers in many parts of the world. Dhurrin breaks down to form toxic cyanide or Prussic acid when an animal eats the plant. So when there is a drought and most need for forage, the farmer can no longer use the crop and it goes to waste," says Professor of Plant Biochemistry at the University of Copenhagen, Birger Lindberg Møller .

Recently, Birger Lindberg Møller and his research group have, in collaboration with, for example, Monash University in Australia, developed a sorghum plant which is unable to produce Prussic acid. Instead of using genetic engineering, the researchers used plant breeding and advanced biochemical and molecular biological screening methods

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Page publiée le 14 avril 2012, mise à jour le 10 mai 2013