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Scientists’ joint work seeks hardy sorghum grow

FINDING AN ANSWER: Mohammed Yousif Balla Abdalla, Clarisse Barro-Kondombo and Rachel Kamene Kisulu with Hermitage scientists Simon Hamlet, Alan Cruickshank, Andrew Borrell and David Jordan.
FINDING AN ANSWER: Mohammed Yousif Balla Abdalla, Clarisse Barro-Kondombo and Rachel Kamene Kisulu with Hermitage scientists Simon Hamlet, Alan Cruickshank, Andrew Borrell and David Jordan. Kirstin Payne

SCIENTISTS at the Hermitage Research Facility are working with scientists from six African nations to enhance food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

Focusing on developing drought-resistant sorghum crops, local scientists have collaborated with three visitors from Sudan, Burkina Faso and Kenya.

"Drought is a major problem for farmers in both continents," said Dr Andrew Borrell.

"Sorghum, a staple crop for small-holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, is also a very important summer crop in Australia's northern grain belt.

"The aim of this project is to develop drought-adapted sorghum for Australia and Africa, and to provide training for African scientists in the latest technologies."

This international collaboration consists of a resource and data share between the scientists from both continents, training in plant breeding, molecular biology, crop physiology, plant pathology and entomology, bioinformatics, and simulation modelling.

The visiting scientists, Dr Clarisse Barro-Kondombo, Rachel Kamene Kisulu and Mohammed Yousif Balla Abdalla, all sorghum breeders, have found their time at The Hermitage extremely useful.

Only in the first week of their three-week visit, the scientists have already discussed more effective methods of data compilation.

"We record data manually, now we are able to record via phones allowing access to all of the templates immediately and synchronise more rapidly. It's time-saving," said Dr Barro-Kondombo.

The ongoing study and development of drought-resistant crops has been occurring at the facility for years.

This genetic breeding combines material from both African and Australian crops to produce crops hardy enough to endure the conditions of Australia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the similarities the visiting scientists have noticed several cultural differences during their stay in Warwick.

"In Africa we dress up a bit more," said Ms Kamene Kisulu, commenting on our casual Australian style.

They also spoke about the lack of hierarchies within Australian culture.

"We are tackling a common problem - drought. We work on a common crop - sorghum. And we have a common goal of enhancing food security," said Dr Borrell.

The international project is led by Dr Andrew Borrell and Dr David Jordan, based at The Hermitage.

Sorghum

Sorghum is not just for cattle. Its health benefits include:

 More antioxidants then blueberries.

 High protein and fibre.

 No gluten, which makes it a perfect dietary grain for those with celiac disease.

Topics:  scientists sorghum