The evolution of Sorghum from its original state to the domesticated cereal of current times has been heavily influenced by the action of human selection. Sorghum has been damaged over the last 6000 years by humans. Current practices of cultivation and selection have led to a decline in genetic diversity of this crop, which is used to produce an alcoholic beverage.
Sorghum bicolor is commonly harvested, but there are several different Sorghum races which have shared adaptive traits and undamaged genes, in a process called introgression.
The wild ancestors of Sorghum represent genomes that have not been damaged through cultivation. Although they are not harvested it is necessary to keep them alive as the ability to adapt to their surroundings by introgression could be crucial to the future of Sorghum bicolor in the light of threats from climate change, and necessary adaptation to new environments.
Sorghum bicolor is a crop widely used for animal feed and in beer making. Damage to the genetic structure of Sorghum bicolor is occurring due to cultivation practices and core genome functions are accumulating damage over time. This genomic damage needs to be repaired to arrest the decline of productivity.
Professor Robin Allaby, of the University of Warwick(school of life sciences) comments:
“Sorghum bicolor is the world’s fifth most important cereal crop and the most important crop in arid zones. It’s used for animal feed and beer and is grown particularly in North-Eastern Africa generating an economy there. If we can’t save Sorghum’s ancestors and use those genes to help Sorghum bicolor repair its genomic damage we could risk damaging the crop further. This could mean less animal feed, food and beer, as well as potentially damaging trade in North-East Africa.” – Press release