Scientists at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) have
transferred a biochemical pathway found in sorghum, which produces a
weed-killing compound, into rice plants. Sorgoleone, a compound secreted by
sorghum helps plants fight weeds and works so well that some other crops
struggle to grow in fields planted with sorghum.
The scientists at ARS's Natural Product Utilization Research Unit (NPURU) in
Oxford, Mississippi, have looked at sorghum's weed-inhibiting properties,
which can be transferred to other crops such as rice and used as a
bioherbicide. Producing sorgoleone in other crops would give those plants
the ability to fight weeds and reduce reliance on synthetic herbicides, says
NPURU molecular biologist Scott Baerson.
According to Baerson, nothing was known about sorgoleone prior to their
research. The NPURU team reached a milestone when they were able to transfer
the sorgoleone compound into rice. Rice plants with sorgoleone would require
less herbicides to control weeds, while growers would spend less on buying
and applying chemicals.