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Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet

Genetic improvement of sorghum for resistance to fungal pathogens

Lead institution: Purdue University
Award amount: $842,963
Focus country: Ethiopia

Genetic variation for resistance

Principal investigator: Dr. Tesfaye Mengiste
U.S. collaborating institutions: Purdue University, Kansas State University
International collaborating institutions:  Ethiopia - EIAR (Asosa Research Center, Pawe Research Center, Bako Research Center), Holleta Biotechnology Center

Sorghum is an important food security crop in Ethiopia, and is grown in diverse agroecologies with varying climatic characteristics. While some of the most favorable conditions for crop growth occur in West Ethiopia, these conditions are also accompanied by a variety of potentially devastating pathogens.

The goal of the project is to enhance sorghum productivity and improve the livelihood of sorghum farmers in western Ethiopia through a collaborative research program focused on developing new, innovative interventions in crop disease resistance. Local varieties grown in the target regions have evolved under severe pathogen pressure and thus possess powerful alleles for a blend of novel resistance genes. Fungal diseases, anthracnose and grain mold are significant risk-causing pathogens in the target region that can result in significant loss of yield, grain quality deterioration, and are obstacles to growing high yielding varieties with shorter growth durations.

By utilizing the unique local gene pool and other sources of germplasm covering the spectrum of natural variation, this project aims to identify disease resistance to combine with other adaptive traits to create high yielding sorghum varieties and hybrids. This will be achieved though innovative phenotyping and resistance breeding, supported by molecular tools for identification and characterization of genes and alleles in key genomic regions underlying higher levels of disease resistance. The germplasm evaluations that make use of the unique environmental conditions of the target region will be strengthened by next generation sequencing and mapping approaches to identify genes underlying quantitative traits such as grain mold. In parallel, to guide the breeding effort and enhance resistance identification schemes, the prevalence and natural of fungal species causing grain mold and strains of anthracnose in the target area will be studied. Further, the project aims to strengthen the capacity of local research institutions by providing graduate education in critical areas that are likely to boost the capability of the next generation of breeders and plant pathologists.

For more information about the project, contact:

Tesfaye MengisteDr. Tesfaye Mengiste, Professor
Purdue University
915 W. State Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907
765-494-0599
tmengist@purdue.edu