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Exploring New Sorghum Cultivars’ Potential as Forage Crop for Upper Midwest
Iowa Ag Connection - 09/26/2023

Sorghum is a productive and versatile annual crop used worldwide for livestock feed. Until now, the plant, which originated in the tropics, has done best in warmer regions with longer growing seasons than the Upper Midwest.

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 the 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 program in the United States.

The effort is funded by a $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 fertilizer. 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.”


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