Core Breeding Australian Sorghum

Project Description

Australia produces at least 2 million tonnes of grain sorghum each year. Sorghum is one of the most diverse crop species with great potential for improvement in yield, drought resistance, insect resistance and grain quality. This project is the continuation of a long running highly successful pre-breeding program which aims to improve the profitability and sustainability of Australians sorghum growers and end-users.

Grain sorghum is a major component of the cropping systems in NE Australia. Approximately one third of the crop is grown in each of northern NSW, southern and central QLD. In Australia, sorghum is mainly consumed locally as a feed grain used by the pig, poultry, beef and dairy industries although a significant portion of the crop is exported as a feed grain, but this is declining as domestic demand for feed grains increases.


This project is a continuation of the long running highly successful Qld Government, GRDC and University of Queensland investment in sorghum improvement and R&D coordination.

The project has three main objectives:

  1. To support (through pre-breeding) the development of commercial sorghum hybrids that will improve productivity and sustainability in existing production areas and in the western margins of the crops current range.
  2. To conduct a best-practice regional trial program to identify the best new germplasm.
    To use the performance in trials to promote continued adoption of improved germplasm by commercial breeders and seed firms.
  3. To provide support to Australian sorghum researchers and make a major contribution to the efficient use of R&D resources.

This work is focussed on increasing the genetic diversity of Australian sorghum germplasm with the aim of increasing grain yield, while maintaining levels of midge resistance and stay-green drought resistance. We also aim to improve resistance to sorghum ergot, improve grain quality via the waxy gene and diversify sorghum midge resistance via the antibiosis trait.

The main outcomes of this work are improved sorghum varieties and a cohesive, progressive sorghum research community. Although not the only factor this program has made a significant contribution to the documented 4% per annum growth in sorghum yields over the last 20 years.

This program has a long track record of contributing to the Australian sorghum industry with particular successes coming from the development and deployment of germplasm with sorghum midge resistance (MR) and stay-green (SG). Currently 100% of commercial sorghum hybrids have a genetic contribution from the program. Previously an economic analysis conducted by Qld Government economists estimated the return from 15 years of sorghum breeding to have a benefit:cost ratio around 17:1.

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