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Three Great New Technologies for Grain Sorghum

Multi-Seed Trait Will Boost Yields

Sorghum that has the yield potential of corn, but uses less water and fertilizer? That’s what the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Lubbock, Texas, is working on with the Multi-Seed Trait, which could increase sorghum yield by 60%.

John Burke, laboratory director of the Cropping Systems Research Laboratory, says researchers discovered the Multi-Seed Trait in order to get more seeds per head. In conventional sorghum hybrids, there are three flowers per floret at the top of the plant. Only two of those flowers will make seed. The remaining florets will set two flowers, with just one seed resulting from the two flowers. From thousands of experimental hybrids in the ARS’s Lubbock test plot, Xin discovered a few outcrosses that makes seed from all the flowers.

“Now we have a multi-seed trait that dramatically increase yields, yet uses the same water and same land. We can get the same yield as corn, using about half the water corn uses. Less water and more profit is a win-win situation,” he explains.

Seven seed companies have the multi-seed trait and are in various stages of working the trait into their own elite germplasm.

“Seed companies like using their own elite hybrids to which they can cross with the lines containing the multi-seed trait. One company is doing hybrid testing right now, and hopefully if that goes well, you’ll be able to see the trait in your fields soon,” Burke says.

Development of new sorghum hybrids requires from 10 to 12 generations of seed production. If things go perfectly for the sorghum seed companies involved, there could be multi-seed hybrids available to farmers by 2020. The multi-seed trait – which is non-GM – would fit in higher-rainfall geographies east of I-35 from Texas to the Dakotas.

Finally, Grass Control in Sorghum

Alta Seeds has been testing the industry’s first herbicide-resistant grain sorghum hybrid, which features resistance to an ALS herbicide called “Zest” that is being developed by DuPont. The sorghum hybrid contains DuPont’s Inzen Z herbicide-tolerant sorghum trait and has been in field trials near Hereford, Texas. The non-GM trait will allow grain sorghum growers to control grassy weeds such as foxtail, barnyardgrass, crabgrass, and Texas panicum.

The commercial hybrid was developed under a joint agreement between DuPont Crop Protection and Advanta, the parent company of Alta Seeds and one of the world’s largest sorghum genetics companies. Together, they will commercialize the DuPont Inzen Z herbicide-tolerance sorghum trait.

Ben Beyer, sorghum breeder at Advanta, says there should be three sorghum hybrid maturity groups that feature the hybrid resistance, allowing growers from south Texas all the way to South Dakota to gain access to the technology.

DuPont reckons that annual grass weeds reduce U.S. sorghum yields by about 20% each year; the launch of the new Inzen Z herbicide-tolerant trait, plus Zest herbicide, should help farmers remediate those losses. DuPont expects EPA approval of Zest to occur this fall.

In search of doubled haploids

The adoption of doubled-haploid technology has helped speed up new variety development in wheat and soybeans, plus hybrid development of corn. In layman’s terms, doubled haploids remove the “fluff” out of traditional breeding because breeders are able to make a genetically pure line in the second or third generation, rather than having to wait until the fifth or sixth generation.

“It takes until the fifth generation before we really get a good feel for the value of these lines,” says Cleve Franks, sorghum breeder at Pioneer’s sorghum breeding station near Plainview, Texas. “Doubled haploids save four or five years in just one year of work. We can look at more finished products and not have to sort through all the other material.”

Pioneer Hi-Bred International is searching for ways to make doubled haploid technology work in grain sorghum, which brings new traits such as improved yield, plus disease and insect resistance, to market much more quickly.

Franks says the company has started a three-year project in search of an elite haploid genetic line that can be used as an inducer for the doubled haploids. He calls it a “brute force” method to find the inducer, believing the right genetic background is in its catalog of more than 5,000 hybrids.

(Source – http://www.agriculture.com/crops/other-crops/sorghum/three-great-new-technologies-f-grain_153-ar48342)

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