Research highlight

Genetics: Highly digestible Sorghum

Nature Communications

February 13, 2013

A naturally occurring gene which increases the digestibility of Sorghum starch is reported in Nature Communications this week. Sorghum is a staple crop in Africa where conditions are extreme and many other cereal crops can’t thrive. However, its low digestibility presents a fundamental challenge for its utility as a food source and the research could provide new options for securing food supplies in this region.

Sorghum is a drought- and heat-tolerant cereal, originally domesticated in Africa, where it constitutes an important food source. A long standing issue with the grain however, is its inherently low digestibility. Ian D. Godwin and colleagues find an allele for a starch metabolic enzyme, pullanase, which leads to higher digestibility and calorific value in the crop. The allele has no effect on plant growth and yield and allows for increased production without agricultural expansion.

This work provides a potentially viable way of securing future food supplies while maximizing water and land use efficiency.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms2450

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