Star sorghum and genetic progress: research priorities and perspectives.
Over the last 50 years, thanks to genetic progress, grain sorghum yields have doubled from 3 to 6T/ha. This is shown in the graph below (source: Arvalis-institut du végétal).
Tolerance to cold and vitality from the start.
Seed companies are making major research efforts on the criteria of tolerance to cold and initial vitality. Tolerance to cold is indeed a decisive criterion for extending sorghum production areas in northern Europe. Today, to sow sorghum, it is necessary to wait for soil temperatures to reach 12°C before sowing. With future varieties this threshold could be lowered, which will allow earlier sowing and thus guarantee an earlier harvest, with a higher yield potential and better grain quality.
New assets for star sorghum.
Beyond the two fundamental criteria of initial vitality and tolerance to cold, researchers are exploring other avenues for progress. The aim of this work is to endow star sorghum with qualities meeting the expectations of the European market. For example:
– To create sorghum varieties whose seed texture and structure would be even more favourable for processing for human consumption.
– Capitalize on the great genetic diversity of wild sorghum (many populations exist) to identify new traits of interest (non-GMO) to be highlighted and developed in the near future. Genetics can be used to improve protein content and digestibility. Genetics can also be used to continue to improve yields by improving flowering and fertility.
– Combining the qualities of silage sorghum: to provide new varieties of BmR (Brown mid Rib) types, which have the particularity of having a low lignin content and a nutritional value and digestibility similar to that of silage maize, with good lodging tolerance.
The renewal of public research will also be a very strong signal for the development of sorghum in Europe!