Because sorghum is a tropical plant originally from Africa, temperatures in the Great Plains are sub-optimal for it during germination, emergence and early seedling growth, said Dr. Bill Payne, Experiment Station crop stress physiology researcher.
Increased seedling cold tolerance has a number of benefits for farmers, includng earlier planting, faster and more uniform emergence and a crop that develops and matures faster, Payne said.
Respiration is a metabolic process essential to plant growth, he said. The specialized organelle in plant cells responsible for respiration is the mitochondria.
Dr. Maria Balota, an Experiment Station research associate at Bushland who works with Payne, is extracting mitochondria from sorghum plants to pinpoint the basic physiologic processes that could lead to improved performance of sorghum plants under cool conditions.
For the past few years, Balota and Payne have grown 50 varieties of sorghum from different regions of the world to test for germination and emergence in a cold environment.
"The next step is to identify cold tolerance mechanisms in sorghum," Balota said. "The breeders can use this information to extend sorghum production into the northern regions of the United States and into other regions of the world."
A mitochondria extraction lab has been set up by Balota and Payne in cooperation with Dr. Bob Stewart, distinguished professor of agriculture and director of West Texas A&M's Dryland Agriculture Institute, and his graduate student, Srinivas Veeragoni, in the plant soil and environmental science department.
"We suspect the membrane of the mitochondria are responsible for the
differences among genotypes for
Contact: Dr. Maria Balota
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications