Exploring Sorghum Disease

istock-000000973256medium.jpgSurinder Chopra, associate professor of maize genetics, has been awarded $1 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to research diseases in sorghum. The research will be conducted with the University of Kentucky and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in India.

Sorghum is a crop similar to corn—it can be grown in the same climate and with the same agronomic practices. This means sorghum can become a substitute for corn and will probably be grown throughout the country in the future as a sustainable bioenergy crop. As more sorghum is planted, diseases will emerge as a significant limiting factor to production.

The two most prominent diseases are anthracnose stalk rot and leaf blight, which Chopra and two other college researchers, Greg Roth and Iffa Gaffoor, are investigating.

The team is investigating sources of disease resistance, and then will breed varieties of sorghum that deter development of anthracnose stalk rot. Resistant varieties will allow for more intense cultivation of sorghum alongside corn without the problem of disease spread.

The research will concentrate on both wild and rotation-crop sorghum strains in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.