LUBBOCK, TEXAS - The National Sorghum Producers (NSP) announced that sorghum will be the second cereal crop genome to be sequenced.

Citing information from the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) Computation Genomics Program Head Dr. Daniel Rokhsar, sorghum has been targeted for sequencing in 2006. The JGI was instrumental in sequencing the human genome.

According to NSP Research Director Dr. Jeff Dahlberg, the project will engage an international consortium led by Andrew Paterson from the University of Georgia. Dahlberg said the project is a logical outgrowth of long-term research efforts that have been supported by NSP to enhance the knowledge of the hereditary information of the sorghum plant.

In the past, genomics research has been funded by sources including the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program, the United States Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative, and the International Consortium for Sugarcane Biotechnology.

"This is as important as the advent of sorghum hybrids 50 years ago," said Dahlberg. "Sequencing sorghum is a critical step in building our knowledge base on how plants function and, like the use of hybrids, will allow us to make significant advancements in crop improvement for the next 50 years. This project will be valuable as we move from fundamental studies of genome organization and gene discovery to applied efforts in sorghum."

Rice was the first cereal grain to be sequenced and Dahlberg said that sorghum is the most logical choice for the next sequencing project because the crops are so complementary.

"Sorghum is an important bridge to closely-related large-genome crops in its own tribe such as maize and sugarcane. Analysis of the levels and patterns of genomic diversity within and between sorghum, sugarcane, rice, and maize promises to advance our understanding of the biology and evolution of Poaceae grain and biomass crops, and create new opportunities for their improvement. Sorghum is one of the world's leading grain crops, and is an important model for tropical grasses worldwide."

NSP represents U.S. sorghum producers nationwide. Headquartered in Lubbock, Texas, in the heart of the U.S. Sorghum Belt that stretches from the Rockies to the Mississippi River and from South Texas to South Dakota, the organization works to ensure the profitability of sorghum production through market development, research, education and legislative representation.