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Research: Nevada researcher aims to improve sorghum hybrids for dairy cattle feed

December 8, 2023
By Emma Lande | University of Nevada-Reno

A University of Nevada, Reno researcher is aiming to make a major discovery in global sorghum cultivation. Her preliminary research suggests that she has developed sorghum varieties having big enough seeds that they are efficiently broken up during the harvest, making their nutrients more bioavailable to dairy cows than existing sorghums. Even better, these unique sorghums are well-adapted to production in Nevada and California.

Melinda Yerka, an associate professor in the Department of Agriculture, Veterinary & Rangeland Sciences, and her team have been adapting sorghum to have desirable grain qualities when grown in the Western U.S., outside of the traditional “Sorghum Belt” in the Great Plains. Some of these new varieties have very large seeds, in addition to very high levels of protein and starch. Much of this work has been conducted at the Experiment Station, a unit of the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, since 2017 when the new sorghum breeding program was established.

Yerka and her team used a relatively new approach to plant breeding research, called a Multiparent Advanced Generation InterCross (MAGIC) population design to develop these new varieties. The MAGIC population design involved breeding together (intermating) eight different parental varieties into a single pool of new varieties, or “progeny.” Each parental variety contributed specific traits relative to grain chemistry, which means that the progeny (the new varieties) have many unique combinations of traits that are desirable for human foods, craft malting and brewing, animal feeds, and ethanol production. MAGIC populations have been used in all major cereal species to identify DNA fingerprints for various traits in plants to help scientists create improved varieties. | READ MORE


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