Global warming spurs drive for drought resistant cereal

February 2nd, 2009 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 2 (IANS) Global warming is prompting the drive for drought and heat resistant cereal, which can be grown in the most arid areas to take care of some of our food requirements. An example is sorghum. Known as milo, durra, or broomcorn, sorghum is a grass species that can grow up to five metres tall and is extremely resistant to aridity and hot conditions.

The grass can thrive under conditions and locations where other cereal plants die because of lack of water. In arid-warm and moderate regions of the Americas, Asia and Europe it is mainly utilised for food and fodder and is also gaining in significance as a basis for bio-fuel.

The plant also provides fibres as well as combustible material for heating and cooking.

As part of an international consortium of scientists, researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen (HZM) are analysing the genes of sorghum, the first plant of African origin whose genome has been sequenced.

Klaus Mayer, Institute of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology of HZM described the scientists’ research goal: “We want to elucidate the functional and structural genomics of sorghum.”

“That is why we are trying to learn something about the molecular basis of the plant’s pronounced drought tolerance in order to apply this knowledge to other crop plants in our latitude zone as well,” Mayer said, according to HZM release.

Sorghum, unlike many other crop plants, has not undergone genome enlargement in the past millions of years. Its rather small genome - about a fourth as large as the human genome - is a good starting point for investigating the more complex genomes of important crop plants such as maize or sugarcane.

These results have been published in the current issue of Nature.

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