Researcher Looks to Sorghum to Replace Corn Silage in Dry Years
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Water has been a big issue in California for the last couple of years, and many dairy producers are looking for an alternative to corn silage for when water is scarce. Sorghum silage may be a viable alternative to corn. California Ag Today met with Jennifer Heguy, a farm advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County who is working on a project, funded by the University of California, to research sorghum.
Heguy’s project consists of looking at sorghum silage to see if it is a good replacement for dairies when California does not have enough water to grow corn. Heguy said this is, “not a good time to talk about sorghum right now because we’ve had a really wet winter and we had this devastating sugar cane aphid last year, which just decimated sorghum crops, but we are continuing to work on sorghum silage.”
With the recent emergence of the sugar cane aphid last year, the sorghum crop in California took a big hit, but the project continues. Some of these projects can take two to three years to determine if it is a good fit into the California feeding systems.
“So this year, we are going to be taking a deeper look at the sorghum quality in terms of nutrition, fermentation characteristics, how people are putting this silage up, and how they are actually feeding it out,” Heguy said.
Photo Courtesy of University of California
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.