Research Identifies Genetic Signatures in Sorghum Wheat Associated with Abilities to Adapt to Different Environmental Stressors; Findings May Aid Farmers in World’s Toughest Crop-Growing Regions

A new study led by a Kansas State University geneticist has shown that genomic signatures of adaptation in crop plants can help predict how crop varieties respond to stress from their environments. It is the first study to document that these genomic signatures of adaptation can help identify plants that will do well under certain stresses, such as drought or toxic soils, said Dr. Geoff Morris, Assistant Professor of Agronomy at Kansas State University and a researcher affiliated with the University's Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet. Researchers conducted the study with sorghum, one of the oldest and most widely grown cereal grain crops in the world. Sorghum is grown in Africa and Asia, as well as in some of the world's harshest crop-growing regions. More than 43,000 sorghum varieties around the world have been collected and stored in crop gene banks, which are centers that serve as repositories for crop diversity. "While sorghum is grown in some of the toughest climates in the world, we need to continue to increase the amount of grain it produces and its resilience to harsh environments because nearly half a billion people depend on sorghum as a staple food source," Dr. Morris said. "We want this important crop plant to produce more food and have less loss." Sampling from the crop gene banks, Dr. Morris and colleagues at Cornell University and the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, or ICRISAT, took "snapshots" of genetic information in the genomes of about 2,000 sorghum varieties. Because each sorghum variety was from a particular known location in an African or Indian village, the researchers were able to tie the genetic differences of each variety to its survival in a particular environment. With this data, Dr. Morris and colleague Dr.
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