Crop Biotech Update

Gene Controlling Stem Juiciness in Sorghum Identified

October 10, 2018

Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have discovered the gene controlling the stem juiciness trait in sorghum from a diverse selection of sorghum varieties.

Sorghum is the world's fifth most popular crop. Grain sorghum, a tough, drought tolerant plant with dry, brittle stems, is used to make products ranging from animal feed to industrial chemicals to gluten-free flour, and is a promising source of biofuels. The less common juicy-stemmed sweet sorghum varieties are used to produce a maple syrup-like product.

The scientists discovered the Dry gene functions as a master switch that controls the expression of many genes that help determine the shape and composition of the plant cell wall. Mutations in the Dry gene in juicy-stemmed sorghum varieties lead to abnormal cell walls and even cell collapse, but the high sugar content in these plants enhances their growth and could lead to increased grain production. The scientists identified similar genes in other crop species, providing the opportunity to shape the level of stem juiciness in other plants as well.

For more details, read the press release from the American Society of Plant Biologists.