USDA Finds Genetic Path to Double Sorghum Yield

Scientists with the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service have discovered genes in sorghum that can double the amount of grain the plant produces.

Their findings, spelled out in a series of papers, are based on years of research that initially focused on a search for the genetic underpinnings of high yielding strains of sorghum. They also lay out a potential strategy for increasing the yields not only of sorghum but of other grain crops, such as corn, wheat and rice.

Their results show that the gene, known as MSD1, is a major regulator of a cascading series of events along a genetic pathway. They found two other genes in the genetic pathway, and say mutating any of the three genes causes a similar increase in grain yield.

Sorghum is drought tolerant and is an important crop for farmers worldwide. Increasing production is considered a key to addressing the threat of food shortages in the years ahead with changing climates, growing populations overseas and the loss of arable land in many parts of the world.