New, low-lignin sorghum germplasm lines developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and collaborating university scientists are now available for bolstering the grain crop’s value as both a livestock feed and ethanol resource.
Lignin is a “cellular glue” of sorts that imparts rigidity and strength to
plant tissues. It also helps plants fend off attacking insects and
However, studies by ARS scientists Deanna Funnell, Jeff
Pedersen and John Toy in Lincoln, Nebraska, show that reducing sorghum’s lignin
content can also be beneficial.
Take, for example, Atlas bmr-12, one of
20 low-lignin lines the ARS team developed and tested in collaboration with
University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists Richard Grant and Amanda
High fibre digestibility
In the laboratory, the line
scored higher on fibre digestibility than standard sorghum, which should result
in higher milk production and higher beef gains when Atlas bmr-12 is fed to
On the fuel front, the line’s high fibre digestibility could also
mean improved sorghum-to-ethanol conversion at processing plants, notes
Interestingly, reducing the sorghum line’s lignin didn’t leave
it more vulnerable to fungal attack in laboratory trials.
determined this by inoculating Atlas bmr-12 and another line, bmr-6, with
Fusarium moniliforme fungi and examining the length of red-pigmented
lesions that formed as the pathogen spread.
Both lines showed greater resistance to the fungus than a
control group of standard sorghum that was used. Inside the stems of Atlas
bmr-12, for example, fungal lesions were 78 millimeters (mm) long, versus 117 mm
in other plants used for comparison in the trials.
Atlas bmr-12 and bmr-6
owe their unique balance of fibre digestibility and disease resistance to two
genes for the brown midrib trait, which Pedersen incorporated into the sorghum
lines during breeding stages.
Read more about the research in the
September 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the US
Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research
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