DOE Announces $6.4 Million in Funding to Study Sorghum

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced in December a new investment  for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program areas. Research under the Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (ROOTS) program seeks to develop technologies and crop cultivars that enable a 50 percent increase in soil carbon accumulation while reducing nitrous oxide emissions by 50 percent and increasing water productivity by 25 percent.

ROOTS has received a total $35 million in funding to support 10 research projects. Two of the ROOTS projects will work specifically with sorghum, and the other projects may indirectly impact the crop.

Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will receive $2.4 million for research monitoring plant roots for drought and heat tolerance. Texas A&M AgriLife Research in College Station, Texas, will receive $4 million for the development of a portable magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system to examine root architecture and soil water distribution.

" The sorghum root system is an area of research yet to be fully explored or understood in such detail," said Sorghum Checkoff Executive Director Florentino Lopez. " These exciting new research projects have the potential to greatly impact the sorghum industry."

Previous research announcements made by ARPA-E provided the opportunity to examine sorghum qualities above ground; these research projects would be the first to explore sorghum qualities below ground.

"The ability to measure the root density and root structure of specific sorghum varieties is a powerful tool," Lopez said. "This has the potential to impact new sorghum varieties that could increase yields, biomass and the utilization of soil nutrients while gaining a better understanding of sorghum's role in carbon sequestration."

For more information about these investments and other funded projects, visit the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy website at




The United Sorghum Checkoff Program is a producer-funded organization that is dedicated to improving the sorghum industry through research, promotion and education. For more information about the USCP and other research projects please visit