Submitted to: International Genetic Improvement of Sorghum and Pearl Millet Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: October 29, 1996
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Forage sorghum and pearl millet are very productive warm season annual grasses that fit well into many niches of forage/livestock systems. This has caused plant breeders to address many diverse objectives unique to these individual niches. Although these forage crops are very important in these niches, they occupy relatively small areage in the United States. Public and private research support for genetic improvement of these species is declining. The central argument of this paper is that forage sorghum and pearl millet breeders now need to jointly focus on key high impact objectives such as addition of brown midrib (a mutation that greatly improves the forage's digestibility) to forage sorghum and pearl millet lines. It is also proposed that new more efficient statistical, mechanical, and analytical systems should be adopted in order to maximize genetic improvement in an era of limited resources.
Technical Abstract: Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.)Moench) and pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum(l.)R.Br.) are unique species in their ability to be used in many forage/livestock system roles. Such flexibility has made prioritizing of breeding objectives difficult, and has even contributed to contradictory opinions on appropriate forage breeding objectives. Few breeding projects were identified in the USDA-ARS, USDA-CREES, or at ICRISAT that had forage sorghum or forage pearl millet as their sole research assignment. In the U.S., it can be argued that breeding resources committed to forage sorghum improvement are probably declining. INTSORMIL recently considered funding a new forage sorghum and forage pearl millet project,but it did not receive high enough priority to receiving funding from available resources. New technologies that include automated harvesting systems,statistical methods, and forage quality assessment methods are discussed that allow considerable eincreases in the scale and efficiencies of forage sorghum and millet breed ing programs.Examples of genes coding for characters known to impact forage quality are discussed. Status of the ethanol industry in general, the prospect for ethanol from biomass,and a paper from stover industry are dis- cussed. It is concluded that due to limited resources, forage sorghum and millet breeding progams will have to focus on narrow,high impact objectives and utilize the best available technology.