Sorghum Not Well Known in the U.S.

Sorghum Used in Different Ways in the World

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

The Kearney Ag Research and Extension Center is currently doing extensive drought tolerant research on sorghum, a plant with a variety of uses. Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearny Ag Research and Extension Center in Parlier, knows the complexity of the plant, and the need to educate farmers about it.

Sorghum
Sorghum is used for humans and animal feed around the world.

“The challenge here is that nobody knows very much about sorghum, and I have to kind of retrain our nutrition people about how to use it properly, and how to treat it so that you can get the most use out of it,” Dahlberg said.

He further added that in most parts of the world sorghum is primarily used for human consumption, however, here in the United States, we use it for animal feed. Dahlberg has been looking into introducing the plant to California dairies as an alternative for forages that require more water.

Even though producers that currently use sorghum are pleased with the results, a new problem has been brought to Dahlberg’s attention.

“We had this insect show up called the Sugarcane Aphid. It can be controlled, but it takes a bit of management,” he explained.

Although the aphid presents challenges, Dahlberg knows that with the proper training the issue can be resolved.

For more information on the Kearney Ag Research and Extension Center, visit: kare.ucanr.edu

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Drought Tolerant Sorghum in CA

California Ideal for Drough Research

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Research is being done on drought tolerance and sorghum. California Ag Today recently spoke with Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier about the topic.

“The sorghum research has gone pretty well for the drought tolerance; we have just finished publishing our fifth article on their first year of data,” he said.

There is a lot of interest in the research findings developing through all the drought work. California is a unique spot to do drought work on a field scale because it does not rain very often.

“That allows us to basically control the field through our ability to add water whenever we want to. I’m really excited about this,” Dahlberg said.

There are genes that are turned off and on with the application and/or lack of water.

Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearney Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Parlier, Fresno County
Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearney Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Parlier, Fresno County

“The challenge for us now is to start taking all this data and trying to make some sense out of it,” Dahelberg explained.

It is critical to find out which genes are needed for drought tolerance and how they can get them expressed in plants.

“I think this is long-term basic research but has long-term implications in our ability to produce more drought tolerant crops to help feed the world,” Dahlberg said.

Sorghum has a long-standing history in California. It was grown here in the late 1800s. The USDA brought sorghum to California as a drought-tolerant feed.

“In the 1960s, there were almost 400,000 acres of grain sorghum grown in the state, primarily as a rotation crop for cotton,” Dahlberg said.

This crop is making a come-back with all of the droughts California has been going through.

“It’s a very drought tolerant crop. Probably one of the most drought tolerance cereal crops that we grow worldwide,” Dahlberg explained.

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Drought-Resistant Genes Research

Promising Drought-Resistant Genes Research Underway

By Brian German, Associate Editor

 

A team of UC researchers headed by Jeff Dahlberg, director of the UC Kearney Agriculture Research and Extension Center (KARE) in Parlier, Fresno County, is conducting critical drought-resistant genes research on plants. “I’m pretty excited,” Dahlberg said, “because California is the perfect place to study drought tolerance and we have never really delved into it too much because our agriculture is mostly irrigated. This is a perfect, perfect, place to do drought tolerance.”

“We are using sorghum because it is inherently drought tolerant, and we are searching for the genes that control how sorghum responds to drought,” explained Dahlberg, who has worked with sorghum during most of his career. “The idea is to identify the sorghum genes for drought tolerance and see if other cereal crops, and even other crops, have those genes but they are just turned off. I don’t believe that genes are just specific to single crops. I think that these genes are throughout most crops; we just don’t know how to turn them on or off,” Dahlberg noted.

“And so, I’m hoping that we can use sorghum as kind of a model for how these drought-resistant genes get turned on,” said Dahlberg, “and then use that model to relate it to other crops. We want to see if we can tweak them and get them to respond to drought in a different way.”

“I really am excited that we are able to develop these field drought nurseries because I think [our research] will have tremendous impact worldwide for helping to feed people,” he said.

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