Ann Appl Biol 163 (2013) 91–101; doi:10.1111/aab.12037
Leaves and stalks of many sorghum genotypes accumulate dark red or purple pigments upon wounding while some plants, called ‘tan,’ do not. Grains with unpigmented ‘white’ pericarps grown on tan plants are more desirable for food. The hypothesis tested was that pigments in plants protected grain against the panicle diseases grain mould and head smut. Near-isogenic tan or purple plant color genotypes with white grain were planted at Lincoln and Ithaca, NE and Corpus Christi, TX. The field grown grain was plated onto semi-selective media to detect the presence of grain colonisation by mould genera Alternaria, Fusarium and Curvularia. More Fusarium and Curvularia spp. were recovered from grain grown at Corpus Christi than the Nebraska locations; however, there was no indication that the grain from purple plants was more resistant to the three fungal genera. Most fungi were identified morphologically as Alternaria alternata. Molecular identification of Fusarium species, using translation elongation factor 1-α gene sequences, showed that Fusarium thapsinum and Fusarium proliferatum infected grain at all three locations. Head smut disease of panicles, caused by the fungus Sporisorium reilianum, was assessed at Corpus Christi; surprisingly, purple plants had significantly greater disease incidence than tan plants. We propose that the tan plant color lines with white grain are promising for development of food grade sorghums not more susceptible than pigmented lines to grain mould and head smut.