Wild Sorghum as a Promising Resource for Crop Improvement

Galaihalage K.S. Ananda, Harry Myrans, Sally L. Norton, Roslyn Gleadow, Agnelo Furtado, Robert J. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench is a multipurpose food crop which is ranked among the top five cereal crops in the world, and is used as a source of food, fodder, feed, and fuel. The genus Sorghum consists of 24 diverse species. Cultivated sorghum was derived from the wild progenitor S. bicolor subsp. verticilliflorum, which is commonly distributed in Africa.  Archeological evidence has identified regions in Sudan, Ethiopia, and West Africa as centers of origin of sorghum, with evidence for more than one domestication event. The taxonomy of the genus is not fully resolved, with alternative classifications that should be resolved by further molecular analysis. Sorghum can withstand severe droughts which makes it suitable to grow in regions where other major crops cannot be grown. Wild relatives of many crops have played significant roles as genetic resources for crop improvement. Although there have been many studies of domesticated sorghum, few studies have reported on its wild relatives. In Sorghum, some species are widely distributed while others are very restricted. Of the 17 native sorghum species found in Australia, none have been cultivated. Isolation of these wild species from domesticated crops makes them a highly valuable system for studying the evolution of adaptive traits such as biotic and abiotic stress tolerance. The diversity of the genus Sorghum has probably arisen as a result of the extensive variability of the habitats over which they are distributed. The wild gene pool of sorghum may, therefore, harbor many useful genes for abiotic and biotic stress tolerance. While there are many examples of successful examples of introgression of novel alleles from the wild relatives of other species from Poaceae, such as rice, wheat, maize, and sugarcane, studies of introgression from wild sorghum are limited. An improved understanding of wild sorghums will better allow us to exploit this previously underutilized gene pool for the production of more resilient crops.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1108
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2020


  • crop improvement
  • crop wild relatives
  • cyanogenesis
  • sorghum
  • wild sorghum

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