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Angie Peltier

Angie Peltier
Former Extension Educator, Commercial Agriculture

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Hill and Furrow

Current topics about crop production in Western Illinois, including field crops research at the NWIARDC in Monmouth.
Figure. Grain sorghum (Image: Dr. Patrick Brown).
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Sorghum Research comes to the Northwestern Research Center

Anyone driving by the West side of the Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center (NWIARDC) this past summer likely noticed a field of plants that looked alien to the typical landscape in Warren County Illinois.  A team of University of Illinois researchers led by Dr. Patrick Brown, Assistant Professor in the Department of Crop Sciences, is studying the genetic control of sorghum grain quality.  They are working on this project in collaboration with Dr. Mitch Tuinstra, Purdue University Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics.

According to Dr. Brown, sorghum is a close relative of corn that has good yield stability under drought conditions.  Sorghum is grown throughout the world as a grain crop for human consumption, animal feed, and ethanol or as a forage crop (Figures).  In the US, grain sorghum is grown primarily throughout the High Plains from South Dakota to southern Texas.  Dr. Brown says that sorghum may become a more important cash crop in the Corn Belt as climatologists are predicting rising temperatures and more erratic rainfall over the next 50 years in this region.

Dr. Brown's team grew and studied grain sorghum at the NWIARDC as part of a larger three-location study designed to "determine the genetic control of oil and protein content in sorghum grain".  They grew approximately 800 inbred lines representing the global genetic diversity of grain sorghum.  Many of the inbred lines "were developed by taking exotic sorghum land races from all over the world (mostly Africa) and introducing genes for dwarfism and early flowering to "convert" them to grain sorghum".  As part of this large undertaking, the team self-pollinated six plants for each inbred line.  The team later collected seed samples from these plants and are working with their colleagues in Indiana to determine seed oil and protein content.

Single nucleotide polymorphisms ("SNPs") are individual differences in the sequence of DNA that can be used to study genetic variation among individuals in a population.  Dr. Brown's team has "extracted DNA from the seed samples and discovered approximately 50,000 SNPs in them using Illumina technology".  The team will combine the protein and oil content of seeds and SNP data "in order to find specific regions of the genome (and specific genes) that are associated with higher or lower protein or oil content".  Identifying genes or genomic regions that are associated with seed protein and oil content can help plant breeders to develop sorghum hybrids with specific grain quality characteristics.

See these University of Wisconsin Extension articles for more general information about sorghum grown for forage or grain.

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