Scientists sequence genome of sorghum, key food, biofuel crop

February 3rd, 2009 - 6:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 3 (IANS) Scientists have completely sequenced and analysed the genome of sorghum, a major food and fodder plant with huge potential as a bio-energy crop.The genome data will help scientists in optimising sorghum and other crops not only for food and fodder use, but also for biofuels production.

Plant DNA is often notoriously difficult to analyse because of large sections of repetitive sequence and sorghum was no different.

Jeremy Schmutz of the US Department of energy DOE’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and John Bowers of the University of Georgia pointed to these complex repetitive regions as accounting for the significant size difference between the rice and sorghum genomes, while also suggesting a common overall genome structure for grasses.

Prized for its drought resistance and high productivity, sorghum is currently the second most prevalent biofuels crop in US, behind corn. Grain sorghum produces the same amount of ethanol per bushel as corn while utilising one-third less water.

As the technology for producing “cellulosic” (whole plant fibre-based) biofuels matures, sorghum’s rapid growth - rising from eight to 15 feet tall in one season - is likely to make it desirable as a cellulosic biofuels “feedstock”.

“This is an important step on the road to the development of cost-effective biofuels made from nonfood plant fiber,” said Anna C. Palmisano, DOE associate director of Science for Biological and Environmental Research, said a DOE release.

“Sorghum will serve as a template genome to which the code of the other important biofuel feedstock grass genomes - switchgrass, Miscanthus, and sugarcane - will be compared,” said Andrew Paterson, study’s first author and director of Plant Genome Mapping Lab, University of Georgia.

The analysis of sorghum genome appeared in January edition of Nature.

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