Sorghum is crucial for food and nutritional security for over 300 million people, particularly for communities living in arid and semi-arid lands in sub-Saharan Africa. Its ability to grow in harsh environments where other crops would not survive is an added advantage. Sorghum has also been endorsed by the regional economic communities in sub-Saharan Africa as one of the strategic commodities for targeted investments. In addition to its food use as grain or in syrup, it has wider commercial potential for the production of fodder, alcoholic beverages (e.g. beer) and biofuels. While in the past sorghum had attracted less research investment than other staple crops e.g. cereals such as wheat, rice and corn, sequencing of the genome has provided added opportunities for varietal improvements including enhancing nutritional properties and boosting yield under a range of conditions. Researchers all over the world in both developed and developing countries are conducting research on this crop.
Our new dossier provides access to lead opinion pieces, and links to documents, projects and related websites covering a range of issues including genetic enhancement of sorghum, bio-fortification and improvement of its nutritional value, key research areas, and aspects of value chain development including public-private partnership and the potential for sweet sorghum for environmentally sustainable fuel production.
In their lead article, Florence Wambugu and Nehemiah Mburu of Africa Harvest describe how the Africa Harvest organisation is partnering with international research centres of the CGIAR and local national agricultural research institutes (NARIs) to improve the crop. Examples from Kenya and Tanzania show that improved access to high-quality certified seeds, intensification of production and adoption of good agronomic practices have led to increased productivity, stronger market links and higher volumes being traded between the two countries.
In her lead article, Eva Weltzien, principal scientist at ICRISAT-Mali describes how sorghum breeders across Africa have been able to develop improved varieties resistant to Striga, and tolerant of high salinity and low phosphorus conditions using local landraces, as well as reintroduce landraces that may have been lost. She notes that the germplasm base must be well known and understood and particular varieties chosen appropriately and in consultation with local stakeholders and farmers to know what varieties might be most suitable. Due recognition of the local knowledge which guides the final selection is critical.
This folder was prepared by CABI, KIT and CTA in July 2014.