Black sorghum hybrid aimed at health food

A Texas AgriLife Research scientist says there’s potential for a black grain sorghum hybrid targeting the health food market.

Bill Rooney has developed Onyx, a black sorghum hybrid that is produced by crossing ATx3363 and RTx3362, both developed by AgriLife Research.

This grain sorghum hybrid is unique because the outer layer of the grain (more commonly known as bran) is black, Rooney says. The black color is the result of high concentrations of anthocyanins, which also are antioxidants.

Key Points

New grain sorghum is targeted to the health food market.

Black sorghum hybrid is developed by Texas AgriLife Research.

The hybrid sorghum could be suitable for the cereal market.


“This type of sorghum would be suitable for the cereal market,” Rooney says. “You could grind this and turn it into flour for food use. You could also take the bran to concentrate the antioxidants in this form; there are a lot of potential applications for this.”

Obstacles to Onyx

The color in Onyx is derived from the RTx3362 line, but hybridization was necessary to increase grain yield to levels acceptable for production, Rooney says. Currently, obstacles facing sorghum growers targeting production of the health food markets are stability, production, cost and yield.

Rooney says that Onyx partially addresses this issue. Its yield potential is approximately 65% to 70% of a commercial grain sorghum hybrid.

He says this hybrid is designed for niche-market production; it will not be widely grown or distributed.

Production will be a cooperative effort among AgriLife Research, specific niche-market sorghum producers, and end-users or processors who are willing to pay a premium for grain so they can use it in health food products.

Other project contributors for the sorghum breeding lab are Chad Hayes and Ostilio Portillo. In addition, Lloyd W. Rooney, Joseph Awika and Linda Dykes from the Cereal Quality Laboratory in the department of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University assisted in characterization of the antioxidants in this hybrid.

The line is in the licensing phase through The Texas A&M University System Office of Technology Commercialization.

Fannin is with Texas A&M Agriculture Communications, College Station.

This article published in the July, 2012 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.