Sorghum, the crop of the future

By David L. Thomas, Sorghum Partners LLC, New Deal, Texas

Three weeks ago, I (and several sorghum farmers) had the opportunity to travel to Morocco, Spain and Belgium with the U.S. Grains Council on a sorghum export mission.

This 10 day tour reaffirms my long held opinion that sorghum is the crop of the future.

We saw and experienced how sorghum export markets work. We visited end users of U.S. sorghum and discussed with them their needs, desires and concerns for feed grains.  We also met with EU administrators in Brussels to discuss tariffs and the “political bureaucracy” that hinder and manipulate all international grain trade.

The bottom line is sorghum works!

The international grain buyers/sellers can trade sorghum the same way they trade any feed grain, when they are allowed.  The politics of pitting one grain against another grain is rampant. Grain traders like sorghum because their customers like sorghum!

The end users of sorghum we met favored sorghum for a number of reasons.  The flourmill we visited liked sorghum because sorghum flour has no gluten, and sorghum flour was his entry into the human health food market.  We had the opportunity to tour several giant feed mills.  These mills were using sorghum because it was their “safe grain”.  Sorghum has no aflatoxin, sorghum is higher in protein than corn and sorghum is less expensive than corn.

Dairies, beef and pork feeders, and poultry farms all were using sorghum (grain and/or silage) in all aspects of their operations.  These end users were using sorghum they had produced or purchased directly, and they were using sorghum that was in the commercial feeds they purchased.

Their comments can be summarized as,  “sorghum is safe, less expensive, and a quality feed.” None of the operations we toured produced their sorghum, but some are considering sorghum production because they are running out of water!  Sound familiar?

When I think about sorghum in today’s economical environment, political environment, health environment and natural resources environment, it becomes very clear that sorghum IS the crop of the future.

Consider the following:

  • Sorghum can be produced on 80 perrcent of the world’s arable land.
  • Sorghum uses 20-30 percent less water to produce than corn.
  • Sorghum is a great health food – no gluten and higher protein than corn.
  • Sorghum is a universal feed – grain or forage.
  • Sorghum grain produces the same amount of ethanol per bushel as corn.
  • Sorghum biomass produces energy through burning (like coal), through sweet juice (like sugar cane), and through cellulosic ethanol production.
  • Sorghum genetics are extraordinarily diverse and under explored.

When there are little or no government ag programs, what is the safest and most reliable grain to produce on the high plains of the U.S.?

Meeting and talking to people all over the globe reinforces my belief that sorghum truly is the logical crop for the future.

The U.S. Grains Council sorghum trade team gathers in front of Atlas, a feedmill in Morocco.

David and other mission participants examine feed grains, including sorghum, at the COPAG dairy facilities in Morocco.

Port of Tarragona on the Mediterranean coast of Spain is a vital port for the importation of grains from the U.S. Spain has been the No. 2 international customer of U.S. sorghum in the 2010/2011 marketing year.

The group tours the Casagrains storage facilities in Casablanca, Morocco.