Plenty of people love to snack on popcorn. Considerably fewer have munched on a salty snack alternative – popped sorghum. But researchers at Texas A&M University would like to change that.
Farmers have bred popcorn for decades, concentrating specifically on its popping capacity. What potential does popped sorghum have? Nicolas Ace Pugh and fellow researchers at Texas A&M’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences planted 130 different varieties in three different environments to find out.
Researchers collected 500 kernels from each variety at each location for a total of 390 samples. They measured total volume and kernel hardness before heating each batch in air poppers for 2 minutes and 15 seconds. The level of “popping success” was determined by the percent of popped kernels and the volume of popped sorghum.
“I was pretty surprised by just how large of a role that environment and its effect on genotype played,” Pugh notes. “The results essentially showed that the environment that sorghum is grown in is perhaps one of the largest factors in determining how it will pop.”
Low-humidity environments appear to be the most friendly for growing popped sorghum, Pugh says. He thinks it has to do with lower occurrence of mold and less damage to the grain, which could equate to superior popping potential.
Pugh says that no variety could be declared a clear “prizewinner” and that popping is likely influenced by additional traits the researchers did not get to examine.
The research had a delicious ending, he adds.
“You can certainly eat it,” he says. “It has a fun, miniature size, and the taste is delicious. Of course, I might be a bit biased.”
Pugh is planning a follow-up study for 2017.