Chromatin optimizes sorghum

By Lisa Gibson
Posted May 13, 2010, at 5:09 p.m. CST

Chromatin Inc. will use its expanding technology portfolio to optimize fit-for-purpose sorghum for use in biofuels, biopower and renewable chemicals.

Through compositional screen analysis, marker assisted breeding and gene stacking technologies, the company will deploy proprietary feedstocks near term and ultimately optimize sorghum for specific bioprocessors' needs, according to the company. "We really think it's the ideal energy crop," said Chromatin CEO Daphne Preuss. "We looked at everything and did a lot of analysis. Sorghum became the clear winner by a landslide." The globally cultivated crop can generate starch, cellulose and sucrose, distinguishing it from all others. "It gets us an opportunity to touch a lot of end users," she said.

According to Preuss, the three most important elements when optimizing a crop include aiming for the right quality; making good use of the land, water and other resources; and matching the qualities of the crop to the user. Chromatin has taken the time to understand the needs of farmers and bioprocessors who would use the optimized strains and has developed solutions for them, she said. The company expects to have some seed products ready by the next growing season, but can employ some of its technologies immediately. "We think we can make an immediate difference," she said, adding that there is a lot of interest among growers and producers.

Chromatin, launched in 2001, began by developing its core technology platforms in crop improvement and now also focuses on the optimization of sorghum for its recently-launched renewable energy endeavors. "I think that there's enormous opportunity in this area," Preuss said. "We're excited about optimizing these products and putting them in the hands of the farmers and bioprocessors." The company's Mini-Chromosome Platform gene-stacking technology was one of its first, but has since been joined by a number of others. "Mini Chromosomes is one of those game-changing breakthroughs," Preuss said. "But since that time, we've built an entire portfolio of technologies to optimize sorghum."

The company also recently acquired the assets of hybrid sorghum developer, marketer and distributer Sorghum Partners Inc., along with Milo Genetics, LP. The transaction provides Chromatin with access to SPI's well-established network of sorghum growers and distributors, as well as Milo Genetics' commercially viable sorghum germplasm.