Biotech Updates

Sorghum's Weed-Killing Power Transferred to Rice

September 5, 2018

Scientists at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) have transferred a biochemical pathway found in sorghum, which produces a weed-killing compound, into rice plants. Sorgoleone, a compound secreted by sorghum helps plants fight weeds and works so well that some other crops struggle to grow in fields planted with sorghum.

The scientists at ARS's Natural Product Utilization Research Unit (NPURU) in Oxford, Mississippi, have looked at sorghum's weed-inhibiting properties, which can be transferred to other crops such as rice and used as a bioherbicide. Producing sorgoleone in other crops would give those plants the ability to fight weeds and reduce reliance on synthetic herbicides, says NPURU molecular biologist Scott Baerson.

According to Baerson, nothing was known about sorgoleone prior to their research. The NPURU team reached a milestone when they were able to transfer the sorgoleone compound into rice. Rice plants with sorgoleone would require less herbicides to control weeds, while growers would spend less on buying and applying chemicals.

For more details, read the ARS research news.