A plant breeding program to improve sorghum varieties for biofuel production could now help meet growing food demands in Africa.
The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has announced a three-year $6.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand and accelerate the development and deployment of advanced sorghum phenotyping and breeding technologies in support of improved varieties for smallholder farmers.
The funding broadens the impact of the TERRA-REF program launched in June 2015 to optimize breeding strategies for improving the yield and stress tolerance of sorghum, both as a leading bioenergy feedstock crop in the United States and a critical source of nutrition for millions of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Initially we launched the TERRA-REF project to gain a greater understanding of the phenotypic and genomic variation of bioenergy sorghum, and to lay the foundation for genomics-enabled breeding strategies for U.S. sorghum bioenergy feedstock production, but the same strategies are directly extendable to food security crops,” said Todd Mockler, Ph.D., Geraldine and Robert Virgil Distinguished Investigator, Danforth Center.
Sorghum is of interest not only because it is a staple crop in Sub-Saharan Africa, but because grain sorghum yields have been flat or declining due to the lack of sufficient investment in the development of new improved varieties.