Nutritionally-Enhanced Sorghum for the Arid and Semi-Arid Tropical Areas of Africa
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Dr. Paul Anderson, A Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI), Kenya - KE
Nutritionally Enhanced Sorghum for the Arid and Semi Arid Tropical Areas of Africa
Research ObjectivesProject Progress & Milestones

More than 300 million people in arid and semi-arid regions of Africa rely on sorghum as their primary source of food. The grain is one of the few crops that grow well in arid climates, but it is deficient in most essential nutrients and is difficult to digest. The African Bio-fortified Sorghum (ABS) Project, a consortium of nine institutions led by Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, is working to develop new varieties of sorghum that are easier to digest and contain higher levels of vitamins A and E, iron, zinc, and the essential amino acids lysine, threonine, and tryptophan. 

Using molecular techniques, scientists are working to develop the second generation of fortified products called African Bio-fortified Sorghum, or ABS. Their goal is to produce a highly fortified grain with:

  • Higher levels of vitamin A, accomplished by introducing the pro-vitamin A biosynthetic pathway in sorghum seeds.
  • 50 percent more iron and zinc availability, brought about by silencing expression of a gene involved in phytate biosynthesis, which reduces the availability of those minerals in sorghum seed.
  • 80 to 100 percent more lysine, 20 percent more threonine and 20 percent more typtophan, achieved through expressing a modified seed storage protein while reducing native seed storage proteins.
  • Better digestibility of protein and starch, gained by modifying expression of a seed protein that limits the availability of amino acids and carbohydrates in sorghum. 
  • 600 percent more vitamin E, attained through expression of a gene that increases the biosynthesis of vitamin E complex.

 The project team has focused on developing new sorghum lines and producing seeds while at the same time addressing regulatory issues and public acceptance. They are also developing plans to produce sorghum targeted to specific locations and conditions. Project scientists are working to develop plants and seeds of the second generation of ABS.

Research Objectives:
Develop the second-generation of fortified products called African Bio-fortified Sorghum, or ABS
Evaluate the nutritional traits of ABS over several generations of plant growth
Transfer these nutritional traits through plant breeding to sorghum varieties that are adapted to specific locations and conditions in Africa
Carry out safety and environmental studies to address concerns about potential negative impacts
Address public acceptance of the new sorghum products through education and communication
Project Progress & Milestones:
Produced sorghum lines that fulfill three of the four major nutritional goals: higher amino acid composition, more easily digested protein, and better availability of iron and zinc
Identified the genotypes that promise the best results in cultivation.
Established teams for further product development and plant breeding, address agronomic traits, and plan for product deployment.
Devised safety guidelines and regulatory requirements for field testing ABS in target countries.
Signed a memorandum of understanding with the West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development in an effort to increase support for the use of biotechnology in improving African crops and build momentum for the deployment of ABS products in West Africa.
Distributed in Kenya a survey of public acceptance of ABS.
Africa Harvest, Kenya - KE
Adams & Adams Law Firm, Pretoria, South Africa - ZA
Bowman Gilfillan, Inc. Law Firm, Johannesburg, South Africa - ZA
Eric Cohen & Company CPA, Maryland, United States - US
Dr. Willy De Greef, Washington, DC, United States - US
Prof. Klaus Amman, Bern, Switzerland - CH
Patton Boggs, Washington, DC, United States - US
CSIR , Pretoria, South Africa - ZA
N. Vilakati, University of Swaziland, Kwaluseni, Swaziland - SZ
AfricaBio, South Africa - ZA
African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, ABSF, Nairobi, Kenya - KE
PlantBio, South Africa - ZA
BioCassava Plus, Ohio State University, Ohio, United States - US
Syngenta Global, Kenya - KE
Dr. K.E. Prasada Rao, ICRISAT, Patancheru, India - IN
Purdue University, Indiana, United States - US
Kenya Agricultural Research Centre, KARI - Kiboko, Nairobi, Kenya - KE
Golden Rice, Freiburg, Germany - DE
HarvestPlus, Washington D.C, United States - US
West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Developments (CORAF/WECARD), ACCRA, Ghana - GH

 Project at a Glance


 Research Map