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Abstract

Rural Malians who grow dryland crops depend on sorghum as a primary food staple. Achieving major gains in national sorghum yields in the complex and variable sorghum environments of Mali has been challenging despite steady advances in sorghum research. Since 2000, Mali’s sorghum research program has shifted from formal plant breeding with a state-managed seed system (FPB-S) toward a more participatory approach with on-farm tests and trials, and decentralized seed supply managed by local farmer associations (PPB-F). Recently, the program released the first Guinea-race sorghum hybrids developed in Mali, based largely on germplasm of local landraces. Of the five races of sorghum grown in Africa South of the Sahara, the Guinea race dominates the West African Savanna, where most of Africa’s sorghum is produced. Aside from photoperiod sensitivity, the defining traits of the Guinea race are the shape of the grain and the fact that the grains turn inside the glumes at maturity, leaving open glumes and lax panicles that help to mitigate grain damage from insects and mold.

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