Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) is an important food crop especially in water scarce areas. Some varieties such as Gadam are used in beer brewing industry due to their malting trait. However, the Gadam variety is highly venerable to birds’ infestation due to its low tannin content. Breeders from the University of Embu and Kenyatta University have used the hybridization method to produce sorghum of higher quality and moderate tannin that guards it against birds’ destruction. The team was led by Prof. Paul Njiruh Nthakanio from the University Embu. The other members of the team were Dr. Josiah Gitari, Cecilia Shinda, Simon Mukono and Samuel Maina of University of Embu, and Prof. Steve Runo of Kenyatta University.
The research aimed at exploiting hybrid vigour in improving the sorghum quality traits. Four varieties namely; Gadam, Kari/Mutama-1, Serena and Seredo were supplied by Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization seed unit at Katumani, Machakos County for this research. Serena and Seredo are of high tannin content compared to Gadam, Kari/Mutama-1. The four varieties were crossed among themselves and also their reciprocals to obtain F1s. Findings indicated that, the protein content was significantly improved by crossing Gadam x Kari /Mutama-1. In the F1s the tannin content was substantially lower compared that recorded in Serena and Seredo. Further, the choice of maternal and paternal parent influenced crude protein, fibre and carbohydrate contents.
The conclusion from the research is that in sorghum tannin content can be down regulated, while protein content can be up regulated through hybridization technique. This is a major achievement in sorghum quality and yield improvement. This work was published by Journal of Food and Nutrition Science in October 2021 under the title “Nutrient content of sorghum hybrid lines between Gadam and hard coat tannin sorghum cultivars”. The full paper can be accessed using the link https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.2830.