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USAID Provides $5M for Sorghum Genetics Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Agency for International Development has provided $4.98 million in funding for a project aimed at "sustainable intensification of sorghum production."

Led by the University of Georgia's Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory, an international team of researchers will use genomics tools to "to address urgent needs for a more drought-resilient food supply, increase rates of sorghum improvement to better meet long-term population growth, and investigate production systems that promote sustainable farming."

The main focus of the project is to improve sorghum's drought and heat tolerance, while also improving the ratooning ability of sorghum, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, or ICRISAT, said in a statement. Additionally, the project seeks to change sorghum production systems by initiating the development of perennial varieties of the crop to be adapted to "key" agro-economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The project offers a unique opportunity to fully exploit the potential of new genomic tools in improving efficiency and effectiveness of sorghum improvement programs," ICRISAT Director General William Dar said in a statement. "The smallholder farmers in the drylands will be the final beneficiaries of this research, contributing to move them from impoverished subsistence farming to prosperous market orientation."

Funding for the project is for five years and other research partners include Jimma University in Ethiopia, The Land Institute in the US, and the Agricultural Research Council-South Africa.