Magazine article USA TODAY

Developing Drought-Resistant Corn

Magazine article USA TODAY

Developing Drought-Resistant Corn

Article excerpt

Purdue University is fighting malnutrition in the African countries of Niger and Sudan by developing new drought-resistant strains of sorghum, but corn farmers in the American Midwest may benefit from the research as well. "This is a unique case where the results of our sorghum research overseas will have a tangible impact on the Midwest and the rest of the United States as we use the knowledge and techniques we derive ... to develop new varieties of corn," indicates Gebisa Ejeta, professor of agronomy.

Sorghum evolved in central Africa, where water shortages were quite common. Corn, on the other hand, evolved in Central America, where drought rarely was a problem, and it lacks the ability of sorghum to survive severe water stress. By using the technique of genetic engineering, scientists now are able to transfer traits from one plant species to another. "These new genetic techniques open up a whole new ballgame in crop improvement," explains John Axtell, Lynn Distinguished Professor of Agronomy. …

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