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September 12th, 2019 / USAgnet.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through its Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) has launched a major initiative to develop bioenergy crops through genomics-based research. Danforth Center Principal Investigator, Andrea Eveland, Ph.D., will lead a multi-institutional project under this initiative to deepen the understanding of sorghum, a versatile bioenergy crop, and its response to drought.

Sorghum is the fifth most widely grown cereal crop worldwide and the third largest in the U.S. It has natural resilience to drought stress and excessive heat, which is attractive for developing bioenergy feedstocks for production on marginal lands. Eveland’s project explores the gene regulatory networks underlying this amazing stress resilience in sorghum, and seeks to define the functions of key genes. Drought tolerance is a complex trait and understanding its regulation in the broader context of the whole plant and its environment will require advanced approaches in genetics, genomics, phenotyping and gene editing.

“There are more than 30,000 genes in the sorghum genome and we only have knowledge of what a small fraction of them do, and most of that is derived from other unrelated plant systems,” said Eveland. “This is a grand challenge facing biologists now — to define the function of every gene in the genome.” Read more …