Biotech Updates

Study Shows Soghum Wards Off Pests Using Hydrogen Cyanide

January 8, 2014

Researchers from Purdue University have proved the long-held hypothesis that sorghum deters insects from feeding on its leaves by releasing hydrogen cyanide. Lead reseachers Mitch Tuinstra and Brian Dilkes found that insects preferred the leaves of a mutant sorghum plant with an abnormally slow release of cyanide to those of a wild-type sorghum plant with a normal cyanide-release rate.

Tuinstra and Dilkes identified a sorghum mutant with an exceptionally slow cyanide-release rate. They located the gene responsible for the defect by using next-generation sequencing, a technique that randomly generates short sequences from a genome and stitches them back together. The sequencing technique allowed Tuinstra and Dilkes to identify the single nucleotide within the sorghum genome of 790 million base pairs that slowed the release of cyanide in the mutant plant.

See Purdue University's news release at