The small genome of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench.) provides an important template for study of closely related large-genome crops such as maize (Zea mays) and sugarcane (Saccharum spp.), and is a logical complement to distantly related rice (Oryza sativa) as a "grass genome model." Using a high-density RFLP map as a framework, a robust physical map of sorghum is being assembled by integrating hybridization and fingerprint data with comparative data from related taxa such as rice and using new methods to resolve genomic duplications into locus-specific groups. By taking advantage of allelic variation revealed by heterologous probes, the positions of corresponding loci on the wheat (Triticum aestivum), rice, maize, sugarcane, and Arabidopsis genomes are being interpolated on the sorghum physical map. Bacterial artificial chromosomes for the small genome of rice are shown to close several gaps in the sorghum contigs; the emerging rice physical map and assembled sequence will further accelerate progress. An important motivation for developing genomic tools is to relate molecular level variation to phenotypic diversity. "Diversity maps," which depict the levels and patterns of variation in different gene pools, shed light on relationships of allelic diversity with chromosome organization, and suggest possible locations of genomic regions that are under selection due to major gene effects (some of which may be revealed by quantitative trait locus mapping). Both physical maps and diversity maps suggest interesting features that may be integrally related to the chromosomal context of DNA - progress in cytology promises to provide a means to elucidate such relationships. We seek to provide a detailed picture of the structure, function, and evolution of the genome of sorghum and its relatives, together with molecular tools such as locus-specific sequence-tagged site DNA markers and bacterial artificial chromosome contigs that will have enduring value for many aspects of genome analysis.