Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



American Journal of Botany 97(10): 1610–1617. 2010; doi:10.3732/ajb.0900170


Premise of the study: Gene flow from crops to wild relatives has received considerable attention since the advent of genetically modified crops. Numerous researchers have found wild – crop hybrids to be nearly as fit as their wild parents, which suggests that crop genes may persist in wild populations. Components of the ecological fitness of cultivated sorghum, its wild relative, shattercane, and their hybrids have not been studied.

Methods: To assess the potential for gene introgression into shattercane, we crossed cultivated sorghum to a single inbred shattercane line to produce F1 hybrids and measured growth and several components of ecological fi tness in relation to both parents in Nebraska, USA.

Key results: Germination of F1 seeds was similar to that of its shattercane parent except at high temperatures, where it was as sensitive as the sorghum parent. The F1 grew taller and produced more biomass than either parent, but the F1 leaf area index was intermediate. Fecundity of the F1 plant was similar to that of shattercane and much greater than that of cultivated sorghum.

Conclusions: Considering all data, the ecological fitness of shattercane × cultivated sorghum F1 hybrids may be equivalent to the wild shattercane parent, which suggests that crop genes that are either neutral or beneficial to shattercane would persist in populations within agroecosystems.