Posted: April 19, 2021

Flavonoid compounds produced by the roots of some sorghum plants positively affect soil microorganisms, which may help the crop to be more hardy, according to researchers who suggest the discovery is an early step in developing a frost-resistant line of the valuable crop for North American farmers.

A close relative of corn, sorghum is the fifth most valuable cereal crop globally. It's an important crop because it may be able to withstand climate change due to its high water- and nitrogen-use efficiency.

"Sorghum is better adapted than corn to stresses such as drought and heat, but increased sorghum production requires boosting its tolerance to chilling and frost stress," said Surinder Chopra, professor of maize genetics, and Mary Ann Bruns, professor of soil microbiology. "We think that the flavonoids can provide the needed tolerance against the stress of cold and frost. In addition, certain microorganisms present in the soil can interact with flavonoids to provide adaptability to the plant when it perceives cold or frost above the ground." The team published its findings in the Phytobiomes Journal.

--Jeff Mulhollem