US sorghum groups announce research, expansion program

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Sorghum Maize

Expanding markets, research and feed use are some of the focus areas for a new venture started by the Sorghum Checkoff, Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission and Kansas State University.

The recently announced project is set to start on April 1 and is looking to improve sorghum growth, yield and use by 2025. Research is set to focus on improving yield and developing attributes, seed innovation and novel genetic traits

The project has been in the work for some time, said Florentino Lopez, Sorghum Checkoff executive director. The groups have been working together to find funding and to support US sorghum producers.

“[The work is] resulting in a final product that is intended to pay a lot more attention to sorghum, productivity and the demand and value side,”​ he told FeedNavigator. One next step is to hire a program director, he added.

The work is being funded through a $4.8m investment coming from the three organizations involved, said officials.

Research focus

One overall goal of the plant research is to improve yield from about 61.95 bushels an acre to 100 bushels an acre by 2025. Work also will look at the development of novel genetic traits and genomic databases.

Research into components and conditions that can influence growth will also be a focus, said Lopez. “Enhancements from drought or cold tolerance are important for us to reach some of those thresholds,”​ he added.

“Weed control or [over-the-top] grass control, we see those as a way to help overall productivity of the crop,”​ he said. “There is a whole long list – weed technology, and cold tolerance, or drought tolerance – there is a whole list of factors to improve yield, [and] we’re not limiting that to one area.”

Other strands include research into seed innovation, he said. Much of the research will use traditional breeding techniques, but nothing has been ruled out.

The crop development work also has the goal of helping producers see the benefits of sorghum as a rotation crop, said Lopez. “We know that gaining more per acre, and gaining more yield per input is always a benefit,”​ he added.

“If and when weather issues or weed issues come up we want the producer to have the option and be comfortable,”​ he said.

Market expansion

Another area of focus for the project will be to expand the reach and depth of the sorghum market both in the US and internationally, said Lopez. That work will focus on marketing the elements of sorghum like starch, protein and fiber levels.

The emphasis will include developing the factors that support increasing demand to 1.25m bushels by 2025, said officials

“We believe that sorghum has some unique attributes,”​ said Lopez. “And, we want to look at those attributes and find ways to use them in feed or food products or pet food products.”

Part of the effort will be to identify and develop the most useful elements, he said. “We need to understand the attributes that are within sorghum and this program has that component side,” ​he added.

There has long been an international market for sorghum, and while that will continue to be developed the group is looking to generate more domestic interest as well, he said.

There is a push to have sorghum move from a trade discount to corn of 4.6% to 2% by 2025, said group officials.

“As you look at the international market it’s been interesting over the last 30-36 months, it’s been trading at a value of 100-105% to corn on an international market,” ​said Lopez. “That value today has been somewhat improved. Today that is an area that we continue to gain on.”

There is some research to support that the feed stock can offer similar nutritional levels to corn, especially for pigs and poultry, he said. “We look at the nutritive value and we think prices will start to reflect that more closely,”​ he added.

“It has that ability to fit in as a great crop for farmers or producers to look at,” he said. “We see it, and want to make sure that they’re getting all the information possible. We want them to remain profitable, and be able to move forward.”

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