US Energy Department Provides $30M for Sorghum Crop Development

New York (June 15, 2015/GenomeWeb) -– The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $30 million in funding to six projects to develop better sorghum crops though the use of genetic and other technologies.

The funding is directed at the development of better varieties of sorghum through improved plant remote sensing, analysis, and breeding methods. It is being provided through DOE’s Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program, which leverages agriculture, information technology, and engineering to develop crops that are sustainable and affordable and yield abundant feedstocks for bioenergy.

The recipients of the TERRA funds seek to address limitations associated with crop phenotyping and genotyping by developing mobile platforms with sensory systems to observe and record plant characteristics, DOE said. They will also develop algorithms to analyze data and predict plant growth potential.

The TERRA program will also fund the creation of a large database comprising sorghum genotypes and field phenotypes, which DOE said will allow the larger community of plant physiologists, bioinformaticians, and geneticists to improve sorghum and bioenergy crops.

TERRA Objectives

TERRA projects seek to accelerate the development of sustainable energy crops for the production of renewable transportation fuels from biomass. To accomplish this, the projects uniquely integrate agriculture, information technology, and engineering communities to design and apply new tools for the development of improved varieties of energy sorghum, a crop used to produce biofuel.

The TERRA project teams will create novel platforms to enhance methods for crop phenotyping which are currently time-intensive and imprecise. The new approaches will include automated methods for observing and recording characteristics of plants and advanced algorithms for analyzing data and predicting plant growth potential. The projects will also produce a large public database of sorghum genotypes, enabling the greater community of plant physiologists, bioinformaticians and geneticists to generate breakthroughs beyond TERRA.

These innovations will accelerate the annual yield gains of traditional plant breeding and support the discovery of new crop traits that improve water productivity and nutrient use efficiency needed to improve the sustainability of bioenergy crops.

Clemson University – Clemson, SC

Breeding High Yielding Bioenergy Sorghum for the New Bioenergy Belt – $6,000,000

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center – St. Louis, MO

A Reference Phenotyping System for Energy Sorghum – $8,000,000

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory – Richland, WA

Consortium for Advanced Sorghum Phenomics (CASP) – $3,300,000

Purdue University – West Lafayette, IN

Automated Sorghum Phenotyping and Trait Development Platform – $6,500,000

Texas A&M AgriLife Research – College Station, TX

Automated Phenotyping System for Genetic Improvement of Energy Crops – $3,100,000

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Champaign, IL

Mobile Energy-Crop Phenotyping Platform (MEPP) – $3,100,000

For a complete breakdown of how this money will be used, visit