September 27, 2023


USDA-backed project to test novel sorghum cultivars for beef, dairy cattle in US




A new USDA-supported project will test and release several new sorghum cultivars that promise high-yielding, nutritious forage for beef and dairy cattle operations in US north-central states.


The project will be led by Maria Salas-Fernandez, associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, who directs the northernmost public sorghum breeding programme in the United States.


The effort is funded by a US$498,960 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. It will facilitate evaluation of Salas-Fernandez's sorghum parental lines created from germplasm adapted for northern growing conditions, including drought-prone areas with sandy soils and low organic matter in the Dakotas and Wisconsin.


"Sorghum offers a number of economic and environmental benefits," Salas-Fernandez said. "The seed is cheaper than corn, and it grows well with fewer inputs of pesticides and fertiliser. At the same time, it is an annual crop that uses similar equipment and familiar cultivation methods, so it fits well with conventional crop rotations in this region."


Partners on the project are Christopher Graham and Sara Bauder of South Dakota State University Extension; Marisol Berti of North Dakota State University; and Matt Akins of USDA Agricultural Research Service Dairy Forage Research Center in Wisconsin.


The team of researchers will evaluate advanced experimental sorghum hybrids for alternative systems (hay, green chopping, grazing and silage) in regional trials at eight locations in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.


Additionally, the treatments will be evaluated to help select the best performing hybrids for those production systems and locations and refine management recommendations.


"Our overall goal is to take the next steps to make new sorghum germplasm available for public use to benefit beef and dairy producers in northern states to improve the profitability and sustainability of their farming operations," Salas-Fernandez said. "It will also be especially valuable to numerous small and mid-size seed companies that do not have proprietary sorghum germplasm and help them supply the best performing cultivars for their northern clients."

- Beef Magazine

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