The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis has announced a three-year, $6.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate development of advanced sorghum phenotyping and breeding technologies and provide smallholder farmers with improved varieties of the plant.
The grant will support efforts to broaden the impact of the Danforth Center’s TERRA-REF program, which was launched in June 2015 with support from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and is focused on optimizing breeding strategies aimed at improving the yield and stress tolerance of sorghum, a leading bioenergy feedstock crop in the United States and a critical source of nutrition for millions of people living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Led by the Danforth Center in partnership with ICRISAT (India), CERAAS-ISRA (Senegal), CIRAD (France), EIAR (Ethiopia), HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Kansas State University, University of Arizona, George Washington University, and NRGene (Israel), the Sorghum Genomics Toolbox is employing cutting-edge technologies to sequence and analyze grain sorghum genomes, capture tens of millions of phenotypic observations over the course of a growing season, and accelerate breeding efforts by connecting phenotypes to genotypes in the field.
"The Gates Foundation recognizes that most smallholder farmers rely on small plots of land for food and income," said Danforth Center president James Carrington. This grant will help increase the productivity of a crop that can, in a sustainable and effective way, reduce hunger and poverty and make communities economically stronger and more stable over the long term."