Sorghum Steals the Spotlight

New herbicide tolerance and trade opportunities provide momentum. ( Lindsey Pound and Lori Hays )

After years of hiding in the shadows of corn and soybeans, sorghum is finally receiving attention. The small grain recently acquired tolerances to certain herbicides and the attention of a new trade partner.

“They’ve always said herbicide tolerance in sorghum is two years out, and then the next year say it’s another two years out,” says Tanner Antonick, central U.S. sales manager with Alta Seeds. “For the first time we’re able to say it’s coming this year.”

Alta Seeds has a soft launch of the new igrowth herbicide tolerant technology in 2020, with a full launch in 2021. Throughout the U.S. demo plots and efficacy examples are growing.

“Traditionally the only way to control grass weeds is with a pre-emergent herbicide,” Antonick says. “This is the first time we can go in-season, after emergence with over-the-top grass and weed control. Our parent company, UPL, will be releasing the companion product IMIFLEX, pending EPA approval, in 2021.”

The new sorghum variety will be paired with an imidazolinone herbicide and uses a non-GMO trait to confer tolerance. The trait was found in 2007 and is currently used in Argentina and Australia.

Vietnam Opens Doors

A new pest risk assessment was approved by USDA and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which means U.S. sorghum can be used in the country for high-value uses such as pet food and liquor and in aquaculture.

This agreement follows nearly five years of discussion between the countries. Sorghum could be attractive for buyers who want to diversify energy sources and find feed sources that store well. In addition, sorghum is gluten-free and non-biotech, which is desirable for the pet food industry.

USDA pegs the 2020 U.S. sorghum crop at 5.62 million acres, which is up 7% from last year.