A genetic treasure hunting in sorghum may benefit crop improvement

Aug 27, 2013

A consortium of researchers from The University of Queensland, the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF Qld) and BGI has discovered that sorghum, a drought-tolerant African crop, holds vastly more genetic variation than previously reported. This study published in Nature Communications today provides an invaluable resource for the genetic improvement of sorghum and other grass species.

Sorghum is not only a food and feed , but also can be used as the basis of biofuel. Its resistance to heat and allows it to grow in poor dryland regions as a staple food resource for 500 million poor people in Africa and Asia, alleviating both poverty and hunger. Sorghum is in the same family as rice (Oryza sativa), wheat (Triticum aestivumLinn) and maize (Zea mays), and it is expected to play an increasingly important role in feeding the world's growing population. Furthermore, sorghum's special features such as a small diploid genome and phenotypic diversity make it an ideal C4 grass model.

By conducting whole-, the team obtained the genomic data of 44 sorghum lines to represent all major races of cultivated (Sorghum bicolor) in addition to its progenitors and the allopatric Asian species, S. propinquum. The analysis indicated that sorghum possesses a diverse primary gene pool but with decreased diversity in both landrace and improved groups. In addition to S. bicolor, a great untapped pool of diversity also exists in S. propinquum, and the first resequenced genome of S. propinquum was presented.

The researchers' analyses revealed that sorghum has a strong racial structure and a complex domestication history involving at least two distinct domestication events. More importantly, they found that modern cultivated sorghum was derived from a limited sample of racial variation. The study identified 8M high-quality SNPs, 1.9M indels and specific and gain events in S. bicolor, providing the largest dataset obtained in sorghum to date.

"Crop domestication and genetic improvement are the key points for breeding research. Our joint efforts yield an invaluable genetic resource for researchers to explore sorghum evolution and its genetic improvement." said Shuaishuai Tai, Project Manager from BGI, "BGI is making continuous efforts for the advancement of agricultural research. This is another significant breakthrough made by BGI on population genomics research after rice, soybean and maize."

Explore further: The origin of the language of life

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gene breakthrough boosts hopes for sorghum

Feb 12, 2013

Agricultural researchers on Tuesday said they had found a gene that boosts the digestibility of sorghum, transforming a humble grain into a potential famine-beater.

Sorghum eyed as a southern bioenergy crop

Sep 17, 2012

Sweet sorghum is primarily grown in the United States as a source of sugar for syrup and molasses. But the sturdy grass has other attributes that could make it uniquely suited to production as a bioenergy ...

Recommended for you

The origin of the language of life

Dec 19, 2014

The genetic code is the universal language of life. It describes how information is encoded in the genetic material and is the same for all organisms from simple bacteria to animals to humans. However, the ...

Quest to unravel mysteries of our gene network

Dec 18, 2014

There are roughly 27,000 genes in the human body, all but a relative few of them connected through an intricate and complex network that plays a dominant role in shaping our physiological structure and functions.

EU court clears stem cell patenting

Dec 18, 2014

A human egg used to produce stem cells but unable to develop into a viable embryo can be patented, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.