Sorghum is one of the single most efficient crops in water use and solar energy conversion. A team of scientists from Clemson University, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute, and the University of Florida has created a new reference genome for sweet sorghum to compare it to the reference genome for grain sorghum to understand the different varieties' different strengths.
Grain sorghum is used largely for its grain in the food industry for flour. Sweet sorghum, on the other hand, is grown for its stalks which are crushed to make syrup. The comparison of the sweet and grain reference genomes has shown that their genetic structure is largely the same, but differences were found in their sugar transport system. The research paper published in BMC Genomics notes that changes in sugar transport mechanisms could reveal the genetic pathways that lead to sugar remaining in the stalk of sweet sorghum, rather than moving to the seed.
In the world's changing climate, important food crops are key to securing nutrition. Sorghum may also be used as a biofuel crop. Understanding the mechanisms that help this plant store sugar in its stalk will help develop more productive varieties.