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ARS Home » Plains Area » College Station, Texas » Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center » Crop Germplasm Research » Research » Research Project #424404

Research Project: Innovative Genetic Approaches to Sorghum Germplasm Improvement and Analysis of Traits Critical to Hybrid Development

Location: Crop Germplasm Research

2015 Annual Report


Objectives
This project aims to utilize recent advances in high-throughput genotyping, bioinformatics, and molecular biology to acquire knowledge of sorghum genes and germplasm, and utilize this information to enhance the rate of genetic gain for complex traits such as grain yield through the development of new adapted breeding material. Sorghum breeding stocks, landraces, and elite tropical sorghums will be phenotyped and genotyped with an amalgamation of approaches, and knowledge of the genetic basis for key traits that impact productivity will be acquired. New sorghum genetic stocks will be developed, characterized, and released with new genes and traits not presently available to sorghum breeders. Specifically, during the next five years the project will focus on the following objectives. Objective 1: Develop and use markers in molecular marker-assisted approaches to introgress day-neutral flowering response into elite tropical sorghums and thereby create new sources of temperate-zone adapted sorghum germplasm. Objective 2: Identify genes and alleles in sorghum breeding stocks for pollen fertility restoration, and exploit this information to accelerate development of new parental lines. Subobjective 2.A: Identify an exhaustive set of fertility restoration (Rf) and partial fertility (Pf) genes in cultivated sorghum using genetic linkage analysis, association mapping methodology, and bioinformatics. Subobjective 2.B: Elucidate the genetic and molecular basis of cytoplasmic male-sterility (CMS) in sorghum A1 cytoplasm by sequencing mitochondrial genes and transcripts in CMS- and normal cytoplasms, and examine the effect of Rf genes and unfavorable temperatures on the expression of CMS-associated genes.


Approach
The long-term goal of this project is to utilize recent advances in high-throughput genotyping, bioinformatics, and molecular biology to acquire knowledge of sorghum genes and germplasm, and utilize this information to enhance the rate of genetic gain for complex traits such as grain yield through the development of new adapted breeding material. The challenge facing scientists is how to exploit the vast amount of knowledge and tools in molecular biology, genomics, and bioinformatics to accelerate the rate of genetic gain in applied breeding programs. We have targeted several agronomically critical objectives that include introgressing day-neutral flowering response into elite tropical sorghums to create new sources of temperate-zone adapted sorghum germplasm, and identifying genes and alleles in sorghum breeding stocks for pollen fertility restoration, and exploit this information to accelerate development of new parental lines. In ongoing collaboration with scientists at Texas A&M University and private sector plant breeders at MMR Genetic LLC, a classical breeding approach augmented with robust genomic and bioinformatics tools will be used to identify elite tropical sorghums and convert these lines to temperate adaptation. The approach developed under Objective 1 will introduce new germplasm and favorable genes for complex traits, including grain yield, into sorghum breeding programs in the USA and worldwide. In ongoing collaborations with our collaborators in Queensland and Perth, we will use genetic linkage analysis, association mapping methodology, and bioinformatics under Objective 2.A to identify an exhaustive set of fertility restoration (Rf) and partial fertility (Pf) genes. Under Objective 2.B, we will sequence mitochondrial genes and transcripts in CMS- and normal cytoplasms, and examine the effect of Rf genes and unfavorable temperatures on the expression of CMS-associated genes. Through the combined approaches outlined under Objectives 2A. and 2B. we will elucidate the genetic and molecular basis of cytoplasmic male-sterility (CMS) in sorghum A1 cytoplasm. The overall approach of objective 2 will permit breeders to exploit this information to accelerate development of new parental lines for hybrid production fields. Objectives 1 and 2 are complementary, and the knowledge gained under one objective will facilitate the success in all.


Progress Report
Work under this project during FY 2015, in collaboration with university and industry partners, resulted in significant progress in sorghum germplasm breeding through the continued utilization of molecular and classical breeding technologies to develop improved sorghum hybrids for effective utilization by farmers in all production areas of the world. The information obtained and methodologies developed by this work will be critical for the successful use of previously unusable photoperiod-sensitive sorghum germplasm in development of higher-producing sorghum hybrids for temperate climates (Objective 1). Work also continued in collaboration with scientists at the University of Queensland, University of Western Australia, the Autonomous University of Coahuila (Mexico), and bioinformaticians at Lucigen Inc. to understand those genes controlling pollen fertility and cytoplasmic-male sterility in sorghum; the work resulted in the identification of mitochondrial sequences that are central to cytoplasmic male sterility (Objective 2). Efforts also progressed in FY 2015 toward sequencing the genome of sorghum mitochondria to better understand those cellular events controlling cytoplasmic male sterility, a trait that is critical to advancing commercial hybrid seed production in sorghum (Objective 2).


Accomplishments
1. Temperate-zone adapted sorghum germplasm developed and released. Sorghum is an important grain crop in many areas of the U.S. and other temperate regions worldwide. However, much of the potentially valuable sorghum germplasm is tropical in origin and does not successfully flower and produce seed in temperate environments, making these sources of genetic variability unavailable to many of the world's sorghum producing regions. ARS researchers at College Station, Texas, working with cooperating industry scientists, used molecular tools in conjunction with classical plant breeding techniques to convert ARS tropical sorghums to short stature, early flowering versions with the objective of making a diverse range of germplasm available to the sorghum industry. More than two dozen converted germplasm lines were released to public and private breeders to exploit in the development of higher-producing sorghum varieties for farmers in the U.S. and worldwide.


Review Publications
Klein, R.R., Miller, F.R., Dugas, D.V., Brown, P.J., Burrell, A., Klein, P.E. 2015. Allelic variants in the PRR37 gene play and the human-mediated dispersal and diversification of sorghum. Theoretical and Applied Genetics. DOI 10.1007/s00122-015-2523-z.
Hulse-Kemp, A.M., Lemm, J., Plieske, J., Ashrafi, H., Buyyarapu, R., Fang, D.D., Frelichowski, J.E., Giband, M., Hague, S., Hinze, L.L., Kochan, K., Riggs, R., Scheffler, J.A., Udall, J.A., Ulloa, M., Wang, S., Zhu, Q., Bag, S.K., Bhardwaj, A., Burke, J.J., Byers, R.L., Claverie, M., Gore, M.A., Harker, D.B., Islam, M.S., Jenkins, J.N., Jones, D.C., Lacape, J., Llewellyn, D.J., Percy, R.G., Pepper, A.E., Poland, J.A., Rai, K., Sawant, S.V., Singh, S., Spriggs, A., Taylor, J.M., Wang, F., Yourstone, S.M., Zheng, X., Lawley, C.T., Ganal, M.W., Van Deynze, A., Wilson, L.W., Stelly, D.M. 2015. Development of a 63K SNP array for Gossypium and high-density mapping of intra- and inter-specific populations of cotton (G. hirsutum L.). Genes, Genomes, Genetics. 5:1187-1209. doi:10.1534/g3.115.018416.