Collaboration between agricultural researchers at Purdue University and specialty-seed and research company Ag Alumni Seed is leading to the development of a safer variety of sorghum, a grain grown around the world which is often used as livestock feed.
Forage sorghum can produce a toxic chemical, called dhurrin, which is a form of naturally occurring cyanide.
“Farmers know how useful sorghum can be as a forage crop, but they also know if you’re going to grow it as a forage crop you have to be careful about dhurrin accumulation in the crop because it can be toxic to animals and in some cases can actually kill animals,” said Mitch Tuinstra, professor of plant breeding at Purdue’s Department of Agronomy.
In this week’s Ag+Bio+Science podcast presented by AgriNovus Indiana and Inside INdiana Business, Tuinstra explains how the public and private sectors can together find solutions to global problems through Indiana’s agbioscience sector.
“It is an interesting issue, having such a commercially-important, globally important crop that has a blight on its reputation,” said Tuinstra.
The Purdue researcher approached Ag Alumni Seed, a company in Tippecanoe County that helps Purdue scientists market their new research and hybrids being developed. It is also considered a leader in hybrid popcorn research and production. It also conducts research on wheat varieties.
“We were set up originally as a not for profit, affiliated with Purdue, to commercialize seed-based technologies,” said Jay Hulbert, president and chief executive officer of Ag Alumni Seed.
Hulbert said land grant universities, like Purdue, used to conduct most of the commercial plant breeding, but he says most of those efforts have been taken over by the private sector.
“In a way, this sorghum program is a throwback to our roots,” said Hulbert. “Mitch has innovative technology with tremendous promise in the sorghum industry. Our role is to help commercialize that.”
Hulbert and Tuinstra are now working with a Colorado-based seed company to conduct field trials on the new sorghum varieties. S & W Seed Co. is growing test plots this summer of sorghum that has been cross-bred with dhurrin-free traits.
“This is going to be a pretty high-profile technology in the sorghum belt and has the potential to greatly expand sorghum’s utility,“ said Hulbert.
Each week, host Gerry Dick conducts conversations with leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs in Indiana’s agbioscience sector, discussing the confluence of food, agriculture, science and technology.
The full podcast will be available Monday morning. Click here for more information on how you can listen.