Nebraska's James Schnable has helped sequence nearly the entire genetic catalog of proso millet. The resulting genetic insights could help raise yields of the drought-resistant crop in the Nebraska Panhandle and infertile regions likely to face food shortages in coming decades.

An international team of researchers and scientists from the USA and China has sequenced the genomeof proso millet, world's most drought-resilient crop grown mostly in the American Great Plains, northern China, and parts of Europe.

 

Millets grow in infertile soils with less water than any other grain, and is popular among subsistence farmersin ever-hotter, drier swaths of Africa and Asia. However, low yields combined with traits that make them difficult to harvest, limited their viability as a food, feed, or fuel staple.

 

The sequencing project identified more than 55,000 genes which instruct the building of proteins. It was also revealed that the species' genome originated from the merging of two closely related genomes more than 5 million years ago. By comparison, the genome of bread wheat emerged within just the last 6,000 years.

 

The team also made a biochemical discovery that has never been reported in other plant species before. Proso millet, a C4 plant, has been found to use all three different biochemical paths to convert inorganic carbon into a useful form. Most C4 plants use just one of the three biochemical paths, with plant biologists only recently finding evidence of two paths in corn.

 

For more details, read the news article in Nebraska Today.