Purdue University has announced a five-year, $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of research on high-yielding drought- and parasitic weed-resistant varieties of sorghum.
The grant will support the work of Gebisa Ejeta, a distinguished professor in the Department of Agronomy and director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security, whose team has uncovered the basic genetic and biological processes that control resistance to striga, a parasitic weed, in sorghum. The discovery has led to the creation of new sorghum varieties that combine striga- and drought-resistance using molecular technology; to date, nine hundred and sixty-one tons of seed have been distributed to more than four hundred thousand farmers in Ethiopia and Tanzania.
The funds will support the next phase of Ejeta’s research, which will focus on identifying more genes involved in imparting broad-based and durable striga resistance in sorghum and other crops. The funds also will support researchers in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Mali working to develop a breeding pipeline for improved varieties of sorghum, as well as private seed systems in those countries that can distribute high-quality hybrid sorghum seeds more effectively.
"We would have multiple genes that we can move around and pyramid together, so there is no risk of one gene breaking down in the future," said Ejeta, who was awarded the 2009 World Food Prize for his research. "This creates opportunities for farmers and small businesses to engage in gainful employment and develop the agricultural industry in these countries."
(Photo credit: Purdue University)
“Purdue Poised to Improve Sorghum for Millions With $5 Million Grant.” Purdue University Press Release 11/15/2017.