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United Sorghum Checkoff Program : Sorghum Checkoff Concludes Five-Year Sorghum Genetics Project

07/11/2014 | 05:21pm US/Eastern
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For Immediate Release
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Lindsay Kennedy
External Affairs Director
806-687-8727

July 11, 2014 - LUBBOCK, Texas - The Sorghum Checkoff, in collaboration with NuSeed/MMR Genetics and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, recently completed a five-year, $600,000 investment in a project to help broaden the pool of available sorghum genetics.

Sorghum Checkoff Crop Improvement Director Justin Weinheimer, Ph.D., said the project, formally known as the "Re-instated Sorghum Conversion Program," was designed to make new sorghum genetic material available to sorghum research and breeding programs to enhance diversity within grain sorghum genetics.

"Advancements in sorghum seed innovation, such as yield, standability and drought tolerance, remain a top priority of U.S. sorghum farmers," Weinheimer said. "This project provides untapped sorghum genetic resources, which can be used to make more profitable sorghum hybrids."

MMR Genetics Sorghum Breeder and Principal Investigator Fred Miller, Ph.D., said these new opportunities will result in significant and major crop improvements in sorghum hybrids that were not previously available through germplasm modification.

"There are vast germplasm reserves held worldwide, but breeders in the U.S. are constrained in using this material due to the fact that this tropical germplasm is unadapted to our day lengths and seasonal temperatures," Miller said.

Over the course of five years, the program converted wild-type sorghum varieties not suitable for U.S. breeding programs into to genetic lines that are more easily incorporated into established breeding and research programs.

"While traditional breeding methods were used to develop this material," said Bob Klein, USDA-ARS, Crop Germplasm Research Unit research geneticist, "we also used NexGen DNA sequencing technology to shorten the time between the start of the breeding process and when the germplasm gets in the hands of seed companies. We are also making the DNA sequencing data available to any end-user who has the desire to use this genetic marker information in their breeding or genetics program."

Between 2011 and 2014, Weinheimer said a total of 144 new sources of sorghum genetics were released to breeding programs across the country. A total of 15 different breeding and research programs have acquired some or all of this material and are incorporating it into their programs.

"The results of this project are directly tied to making more productive hybrids, which in turn results in higher profitability for producers," Weinheimer said. "We are already exploring ways to make additional genetic lines available."

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The United Sorghum Checkoff Program is a producer-funded organization that is dedicated to improving the sorghum industry through research, promotion and education. For more information about the USCP and other research projects please visit www.sorghumcheckoff.com.

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