Increasing global food production in the face of increasing demand and resource scarcity is the major challenge facing agriculture in the next 30 years. While large improvements in crop productivity have been made in the last century, the rate of progress is declining and further gains will require new solutions. Improving the efficiency of fundamental biological processes such as photosynthesis will be critical to meeting this challenge. Sorghum is a high-yielding C4 cereal, biomass and forage crop closely related to other important food and energy crops including maize, sugar cane and pearl millet. It has broad adaptation and high levels of genetic diversity and, in contrast to its relatives, has a relatively small diploid genome. This coupled with a mature set of genetic and genomic resources, make it an ideal system in which to undertake the physiological and genetic dissection of complex traits such as grain yield and some of its components. In this presentation I will report on progress we have made to identify natural genetic variation in key components of C4 photosynthesis using a combination of gene-to-phenotype and phenotype–to-gene approaches. This work forms part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis of which UQ is a partner. Our results indicate that substantial exploitable natural variation in photosynthesis exists in sorghum which has the potential to be manipulated to increase productivity in sorghum and contribute to similar increases in other C4 crops.
David Jordan is a Professor in plant breeding and genetics at the university of Queensland's Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation. He has 25 years experience as a sorghum breeder geneticist in both the public and private sectors. For the last decade he has led the public sorghum pre-breeding program in Australia. This is a long running and successful program with a reputation for integrating across disciplines and linking research from the strategic to the applied. Breeding lines from this program are widely in Australia and internationally.