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Sorghum from the ARS National Sorghum Germplasm
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Sources of Sorghum Anthracnose Resistance
By Jim Core
February 3, 2006
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists scouring sorghum germplasm
collections from African countries in search of anthracnose resistance for this
valuable grain crop were surprised to find some key sources in unexpected
Disease evaluation data are lacking for more than 50 percent of the 43,000
accessions in the ARS sorghum collection. Since pathogens can overcome plant
resistance, researchers need to find new sources of resistant germplasm that
breeders can use.
The United States produces about one-fifth of the world's sorghum and is the
leading exporter of grain sorghum. But Africa is the center of origin for this
plant, so research geneticist and sorghum curator
E. Erpelding of ARS' Tropical Agriculture Research Station (TARS)
in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, looked to sorghum collections from African countries
for resistance to the highly variable anthracnose pathogen.
The fungus infects all aboveground parts of the plant and, in severe cases,
the disease can kill plants before maturity. Often, anthracnose weakens the
plant, severely reducing grain yield and quality.
K. Prom, a plant pathologist at the ARS
Germplasm Research Unit in College Station, Texas, were not surprised to
find resistance in about half of the lines evaluated from a subset of the Sudan
collection, considered a center of diversity for sorghum.
But finding 80 percent of the accessions from a subset of the Mali
collection to be resistant was unexpected. So, the researchers evaluated
additional germplasm subsets representing specific regions of Mali and found an
association between weather pattern and anthracnose resistance. More accessions
from dry areas were susceptible, while nearly all from the wettest region were
Erpelding is working with ARS geneticist
R. Klein of College Station, who is mapping the sorghum genome and cloning
important genes which could include anthracnose resistance.
more about the research in the February 2006 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.