Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop in the world in terms of production and harvested area. This drought-tolerant crop is grown on 45 million hectares, with 75% of the area concentrated in ten countries: Sudan, India, Nigeria, Niger, USA, Mexico, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad. Sorghum is a staple crop in Asia and Africa, and is grown for both food and industrial purposes.
Sorghum cultivation emerged with cattle herding as an adaptation to the dry conditions of the Sahel. The earliest archeological evidence of the use of sorghum by humans is dated at about 9000 BP, and was found in the border between Egypt and Sudan. Sorghum has been used as a model to study the influence of cultural factors in shaping the genetic composition and the geographical distribution of crops. This is particularly relevant to understand how traditional seed-exchange systems work, and therefore to find efficient ways to diffuse improved varieties.
The global strategy for the ex situ conservation of sorghum identifies three major germplasm collections based on their sampling of crop diversity, availability of characterization and evaluation data, and accessibility and availability of material and related information: ICRISAT, USDA-ARS and the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in India. Genesys maintains information on almost 100,000 accessions, including those held at the USDA-ARS genebanks and ICRISAT.