Unraveling of the sorghum genome will help improve dryland crops
ICRISAT Février 2009
- The announcement of the unraveling of the genome of sorghum, one of the mandate crops of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), will strengthen the Institute’s research for the improvement of sorghum and other food crops.
- The sequencing of the sorghum genome was announced in a scientific article published on 29 January 2009 in the journal Nature. The global team of scientists that reported the genome sequencing was led by Prof Andrew Paterson of the University of Georgia, USA, and included ICRISAT’s Cereal Breeder, Dr C Tom Hash.
- Sorghum is the second food crop from the grass family to have its genome fully sequenced. The first one was rice. Sorghum is the first crop with the more efficient C4 photosynthesis system to be sequenced. Sugarcane, maize and pearl millet are other grasses with the C4 photosynthesis system that should benefit from this.
- According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the unraveling of the sorghum genome is the first such breakthrough for a dryland agricultural crop that is adapted to drought. "The sequence of sorghum genome will provide us a better understanding on genes that make sorghum, as compared to other cereals, more drought tolerant."
- The paper published in Nature shows that different cereals such as rice, wheat, barley, maize, sorghum and pearl millet show similarities in gene number and gene order, since they derived from a common ancestor. This allows the use of genomic resources from one cereal species to improve another species. For instance, based on the sequence data of sorghum and rice, molecular markers have been developed and are being used in pearl millet, another mandate crop for ICRISAT.
- Sorghum, a mandate crop of ICRISAT, is the fifth most important and relatively drought tolerant cereal crop that is the dietary staple of more than 500 million people in more than 30 countries of semi-arid tropics. It is grown on 42 m ha in 98 countries of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.
- ICRISAT has been working for more than three decades for improving sorghum for food and feed proposes. Furthermore, sweet sorghum has emerged as a feedstock for ethanol production. It gives food/feed, fodder and fuel, without significant trade-offs in any of these uses in a production cycle. ICRISAT has pioneered the sweet sorghum ethanol production technology, and its commercialization.
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