Scientists at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) have doubled the amount of grains that a sorghum plant can yield. Led by Dr. Doreen Ware, CSHL Adjunct Professor and research scientist at USDA and colleague Dr. Zhanguo Xin, the research team identified novel genetic variation in sorghum's MSD2 gene, increasing the grain yield by 200 percent.
MSD2 comes from the gene line that boosts flower fertility by lowering the amount of jasmonic acid, a hormone that controls seed and flower development. It is regulated by MSD1, a gene discovered by Dr. Ware's team in 2018. Their research shows that manipulating either gene increases seed and flower production.
Sorghum is one of the world's most important sources of food, animal feed, and biofuel. It is considered a model crop for research because it has a high tolerance to drought, heat, and high-salt conditions.