Home NewsAustralia Cracking the DNA code of gluten-free sorghum could mean more grown in Australia

Cracking the DNA code of gluten-free sorghum could mean more grown in Australia

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It is a gluten-free grain that Africans have eaten for hundreds of years, and now scientists have cracked the code on how to develop extra sorghum in Australia.

In Australia, sorghum is nearly solely utilized in animal feed, although more and more, it may be present in flours, cereals and pasta.

The traditional grain could also be native to Africa, however it’s the essential summer time crop in northern Australia, the place it’s prized for its drought hardiness.

However the grain is small, making it a problem to course of and a threat for farmers who develop it, in the end stopping it from being grown extra broadly.

That’s the place David Jordan and his crew on the  Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Meals Innovation (QAAFI) got here in.

Dimension does matter

Dr Jordan stated that when plant breeders tried to develop larger grains, they obtained fewer of them. 


“The opposite cause (grain measurement) is necessary is farmers get penalised if they’ve small grains.

“The explanation for that’s when grain is processed for feeding to animals, small grains could be problematic in that they do not get damaged and that breaking is essential to make use of the starch that is in that grain.”

“So it is actually necessary each the farmer and the cash he will get and for the people who use sorghum.”

A mid shot from the chest up of a man standing in a field of sorghum
UQ professor David Jordan says sorghum is a important crop within the north, however its growth has been constrained by its grain measurement. (

ABC Rural: Anthea Moodie


His crew got down to map sorghum’s genome, hoping to establish the genes chargeable for grain measurement and isolate them from the genes chargeable for the variety of grains produced. 

“What we’re doing is looking out via sorghum strains from world wide which have a spread of various traits and genes that aren’t current in elite industrial cultivars,” he stated. 

“Grain measurement is managed by a number of totally different genes, some are linked to grain quantity, and a few will not be, so if we will discover the genes that aren’t related to grain quantity, then we will enhance grain measurement with out decreasing grain quantity.”

Aussie traits on the rise

(QAAFI) Analysis Fellow Dr Yongfu Tao has been engaged on sorghum genetic enchancment for over a decade, beginning out in China.

A mid shot of a man with open hands holding two piles of grains
Dr Yongfu Tao says traits from Australian wild sorghum could possibly be bred into industrial cultivars to enhance crop genetics. (

Provided: Megan Pope, UQ 


He mapped the genome, figuring out 125 areas the place variation within the DNA sequence was related to grain measurement and response to environmental circumstances.

“Sorghum is such a fantastic crop. It is very drought-adapted, it is a very resilient crop,” he stated.

The genetic info will likely be utilized by plant breeders to establish the bigger grain trait, and thru pure breeding, cycles develop a brand new selection.

The work is far slower than genetic modification, and even with pace breeding strategies, it might take a decade earlier than the larger grain is within the paddock. 

Whereas many of the sorghum grown commercially in Australia originated in Africa, Dr Tao stated the six-year mission regarded on the potential of untamed Australian varieties. 

“They’re tailored to the Australian surroundings.”

About half of Australia’s crop is exported, and whereas there are rising shopper markets each right here and overseas, few Australian’s commonly eat sorghum.

In a paper on shopper markets printed in 2020, the Grains Analysis and Growth Company stated there have been increasing markets for farmers to faucet into.

“In Australia, sorghum is just not a conventional a part of human diets, and we imagine that there’s little or no shopper consciousness about sorghum … Within the native market, sorghum has the potential to satisfy the wants of customers for its well being properties and for its gluten free standing. Growers may gain advantage from following developments on this market and set up relationships with meals producers.”

The work is printed in The Plant Journal. 

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