LINCOLN, Neb. -- The International Sorghum and Millet Collaborative Research Support Program, a long-standing international development program, has just received a $9 million, five-year cooperative agreement from the U.S. Agency for International Development to continue its work and continue to be based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

INTSORMIL works in Africa, Central America, Eurasia and the United States.

The cooperative agreement's official title is the Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains Collaborative Research Support Program. Because the long-standing program is internationally known as INTSORMIL, officials plan to continue using that name -- its name since inception.

For nearly 30 years, INTSORMIL has provided life-sustaining aid to some of the poorest nations in the world. Examples include:

  • Better marketing strategies in Niger are increasing farm income, while Striga-resistant sorghum in Ethiopia and Sudan will help farmers avoid losing crops to this parasitic weed.

  • In El Salvador, sorghum flour offers a 100 percent Salvadorian product that increases profits for bakers and sorghum farmers because they don't have to import wheat.

    At the same time, it has improved sorghum and millet hybrids for U.S. farmers, said John Yohe, INTSORMIL director at UNL.

    "The role INTSORMIL played in bringing germplasm back to the U.S. to develop greenbug-resistant hybrids resulted in higher yields and reduced pesticide costs," Yohe said. In addition, much of the U.S.'s sorghum research is funded through INTSORMIL.

    Plant breeders from U.S. land-grant universities collaborate with researchers in host countries through INTSORMIL.

    "This is a global collaborative effort providing partnerships among some of the most effective U.S. research universities and allowing them to focus on education and research projects leading not only to better grain production, but also to the critically important goal of improving the lives of people worldwide," said Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Harlan Vice Chancellor and NU Vice President John Owens. "This is why we're especially pleased to have INTSORMIL headquartered at UNL."

    Having access to sorghum and millet strains from Africa and other countries has helped U.S. plant breeders develop new sorghums and millets for this country.

    "Because of INTSORMIL involvement, Mali, Africa, is one of the strongest sorghum research programs in the world today," Yohe said.

    "The center of origin for sorghum and pearl millet is in Africa," Yohe said. "Breeders are able to bring back germplasm from native types and from improved types with desirable characteristics and enter them into their breeding programs back in the U.S. This continues to strengthen the sorghum breeding program in the U.S. Faculty also are able to take their experiences out of the international program and use them in the classroom."

    Scientists from six U.S. land-grant universities -- UNL, Ohio State University, Kansas State University, Mississippi State University, Purdue University and Texas A&M University -- and from West Texas A&M University have collaborated with scientists in the INTSORMIL host countries.

    "INTSORMIL is an exciting example of win-win research from international collaboration that benefits both developing countries and U.S. farmers," said Prem Paul, UNL vice chancellor for research. "Through the leadership of John Yohe this has been one of our longest-running and most productive international research programs."

    UNL has managed INTSORMIL since 1979; it has brought more than $80 million to the university.

    INTSORMIL focuses on education, mentoring and collaborative research with host country scientists. It works to improve nutrition and natural resource management and to increase income in developing countries, while developing new technologies to improve sorghum and pearl millet production and its use worldwide.

    "Research and education projects like INTSORMIL illustrate in the most dramatic way possible how the knowledge created by UNL and other land-grant university scientists can have life enhancing results for people throughout the world," said Gary Cunningham, dean of UNL's Agricultural Research Division.

    Sorghum and pearl millet are important food staples, especially in semiarid regions, because of their drought-tolerant characteristics.

    In the U.S., sorghum is used mainly as livestock feed. Nebraska ranks third in sorghum production.

    The new grant also will fund research and development of other cereal grains used for human food that can be produced in Africa's sorghum and pearl millet cropping systems. These additional grains include finger millet and fonio, both types of millet, and tef, a grain.

    "I'm excited that we'll get to continue our research and continue to work with developing the program in other countries," Yohe said. "What we do has made a significant contribution to food security in the developing world and we've had some great people at UNL who have focused their careers on this work."

    More information about INTSORMIL is available at

    USAID administers the U.S. Foreign Assistance Program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 120 countries worldwide.

    INTSORMIL is administered through the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Agricultural Research Division.

    SOURCE: University of Nebraska news release.