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Sorghum growers putting checkoff to work

Using their new value-based checkoff assessment, sorghum growers across the country are taking steps that can help them see extensive research and promotion that hopefully will rival that for corn, soybeans and wheat.

Research on cold tolerant hybrid varieties, weed technology, renewable fuels usage and other traits are among the many areas that should benefit from the checkoff, says Dr. Jeff Dahlberg, director of research for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, headquartered in Lubbock, Texas.

The checkoff began last July and is assessed based on the value of sorghum.

“The assessment rate for sorghum grain is 0.60 percent of the price received by the farmer, or 0.006 times the value of the load,” says Dahlberg. “The assessment rate for sorghum forage is 0.35 percent of the value of the load and is only assessed on the first handlers who purchase over 5,000 tons of forage in a calendar year.”

The Commodity Promotion Research and Information Act of 1996 allows a particular commodity to establish a checkoff program in order to benefit producers. The checkoff is expected to raise about $6 million to $10 million annually.

The assessment program hopefully will encourage more interest in sorghum research by commercial seed companies, along with interest from university scientists, says Dahlberg.

He says sorghum was the second crop to be “genetically sequenced” by researchers (rice being the first). “Sorghum has a smaller genome than corn,” he says. “We see that as a benefit. There will be a lot of genetic information available from studies funded by checkoff backed research.”

He sees more opportunities for growers to add sorghum to their crop rotations because of the benefits it can provide in helping with water management, weed control and insect management.

“There are not as many insect and disease issues in sorghum as there are with other crops and sorghum is very efficient at using limited water resources,” says Dahlberg. “Sorghum can also yield with corn on good quality land. We would like to see growers produce it on their better soil.”

Sorghum silage tests conducted through the Dairy One program in New York indicate that the popular Brown Mid Rib sorghum forages perform well in a dairy ration. Many Texas and New Mexico dairies use it in their rations.

There are also opportunities for biofuels. “Sweet sorghum is performing well in research as a feedstock for ethanol production,” says Dahlberg, adding that many ethanol plants that have sprung up in the Southern Plains did so with sorghum in mind.

“The U.S. Department of Energy is working with producers to look at the biomass capabilities of sorghum. There is a lot more promise for both forage and sweet sorghums as an energy crop.”

He reminds growers that worldwide, sorghum is seen more as a food grain for human consumption in numerous products.

With the sorghum checkoff in place, growers can feel more confident that their future production will see strong yields and higher quality grain with more uses.

The checkoff program is overseen by the United Sorghum Checkoff Program Board, composed of 13 sorghum producers. For more in the national sorghum checkoff, go to

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TAGS: Corn
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