USCP and USDA-ARS Find New Traits in Sorghum

With new sorghum research, the future of sorghum has become more stable.

The United Sorghum Checkoff Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Services are teaming up to find new traits to increase sorghum yields.

Justin Weinheimer, Ph.D., USCP crop improvement director, said current research is focused on advancing the crop’s productivity.

“When you look at the portfolio of research that we have conducted, it is really aiming at improving (yield) to allow the sorghum producers, particularly on the grain side, to be more productive,” Weinheimer said. “Obviously, when you ask any farmer what they want in a field of sorghum, they are going to tell you three things; they want yield, yield and yield. But the question in our research is how to address: ‘how do you get that?’”

Weinheimer said USCP invested in a five-year, $1.25 million project with the USDA-ARS in Lubbock that allows research to be conducted to identify and explore the uniquely diverse genetic traits within sorghum.

Chad Hayes, a sorghum geneticist for the USDA-ARS in Lubbock, explains one of the unique genetic traits they found within sorghum called Multiseed.
“Multiseed, what we call MSD, is a mutation within sorghum that will increase the number of seed within the sorghum head,” said Hayes. “Though the seeds are currently small, we hope that in the future MSD will increase the yields of sorghum.”

Hayes said sorghum yields have been flat for the past 20 years. However, they hope to change that soon.

“Currently we have been doing a lot of research on identifying a tolerant source within sorghum to battle the sugarcane aphid,” said Hayes. “We are testing a line from Ethiopia to find new singles lines and sugarcane tolerance. This line is photoperiod sensitive, the main source of sugarcane aphid tolerance, does not flower in Lubbock, so it continues to grow.”

Hayes said they are also conducting research on a cold tolerant line of sorghum.

“We are also working on a cold tolerant line,” Hayes said, “Normally sorghum germinates above 60F soil temperature. However, the line we are creating would be able to germinate around 56F soil temperature.”

With farmers planting later due to rains and cool soil temperatures, the USCP said that this new research along with others will be beneficial to farmers looking for higher yields.

Weinheimer said this new research will be beneficial to farmers looking for a higher yield.

“I think these are the types of technology that are going to offer some value for growers,” said Weinheimer, “Maybe not these specific ones but these types of technology are going to be something that helps growers in the field get directly more yield.”