Sorghum Checkoff Newsletter – Fall 2018

From starting a podcast to hiring a new regional marketing director, the Sorghum Checkoff has had a busy few months, not to mention new research findings and an influential acquisition for sorghum farmers. Read about all of these and more in the Fall 2018 Sorghum Checkoff Newsletter.

Written by: Shalin Pinkerton

Sorghum Smart Talk: Making Waves in the Industry

Whether you are on the combine, driving from one field to the next or just sitting down inside from the cold, the “Sorghum Smart Talk” podcast offers a new and convenient way to gain information. The Sorghum Checkoff launched the first installment of a joint podcast with National Sorghum Producers on Oct. 8 to feature valuable information about grain marketing but also to expand beyond that with resources relating to the sorghum industry and your national producer organizations.

The Sorghum Checkoff’s goal with this new platform is to reach a larger audience and provide timely tools to both producers and industry stakeholders. A podcast designed specifically with farmers in mind, allows the Checkoff and NSP to create content using experts to meet the information needs of sorghum producers across the nation.

The first podcast topics are over profit and risk analysis, contracting and other marketing-related topics. John Miller, owner of Southwest Agribusiness Consulting Inc., was the show’s first guest. He has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University and started a firm that provides comprehensive price risk management services to producers and users of agricultural commodities throughout the Southern Plains.

“The Sorghum Checkoff has created an initiative to provide farmers with crucial knowledge on topics related to their cost of production, accounting and risk management,” said Jennifer Blackburn, Sorghum Checkoff external affairs director. “’Sorghum Smart Talk’ contributes to the marketing tools producers need to take advantage of the markets we are trying to create for them.”

The podcast increases brand recognition of Sorghum: The Smart Choice™ by extended promotion into another media source and serves as a way to build the Sorghum Checkoff’s presence in the digital realm. This allows the message of Team Sorghum to reach farther than ever before by growing consumer knowledge of sorghum production and practices, while also providing a more flexible way for producers to learn new information.

According to Tim Hammerich, founder of AgGrad, smartphones have become a necessity in agribusiness providing everything from controlling irrigation to weather updates, accessing email and flying drones. Podcasts have swiftly become a valuable asset to agriculturalists through the speaker of a smartphone.

“The way farmers consume media is changing as fast as the technology on their farms,” said Blackburn. “This podcast will serve as a new avenue for us to reach producers with timely, relevant information that will aid in making more informed decisions on the farm.”

Future series will cover a variety of industry related topics such as grain marketing, agronomy, regulatory and legislative issues and will feature leading agricultural experts.

For updates regarding “Sorghum Smart Talk”, visit, and follow @SorghumGrowers and @SorghumCheckoff on Twitter and Instagram. Updates are also available on Facebook.


S&W Seed Co. Acquires Chromatin Inc.

In early October S&W Seed Company announced it will acquire Chromatin Inc., a sorghum seed operation in New Deal, Texas, who has partnered with the Sorghum Checkoff on many cutting edge sorghum research projects over the years. The acquisition will include the Sorghum Partners® Brand founded by David Thomas and Larry McDowell, which has been managed by Chromatin Inc. since 2010.

S&W Seed Company offers a large portfolio of seed options and technology for today’s farmers. Their range of forage, grain and specialty crop products will help support growing global demand for animal proteins and healthier consumer diets. S&W Seed brings new resources to the table, which can be used to compliment the Sorghum Checkoff’s investments in ACCase tolerant lines and the overall mission to further fulfill the needs of U.S. sorghum producers. As the Sorghum Checkoff turns the page toward a better future, S&W Seed will play an important role in boosting return on investment and lowering cost of production for sorghum farmers.

“We’re excited to begin working with S&W as they continue to drive sorghum advancements forward,” said Justin Weinheimer, Ph.D., Sorghum Checkoff crop improvement director. “We have been working together with both S&W Seed and Chromatin to make the transition of Checkoff-funded research without delay.”

Collaboration with S&W Seed will be instrumental to the future of the sorghum industry at a time where technology is rapidly changing, and research focused on success will remain a targeted focal point of the Sorghum Checkoff.

“S&W looks forward to building on Chromatin’s well-established history of developing premium hybrids,” said Dan Gardner, S&W Chief Marketing and Technology Officer. “We are committed to helping address the challenges that so many farmers face through unique trait development that will help them become more productive and profitable, with many new products set to launch shortly.”

The Sorghum Checkoff has a long history with both Chromatin and Sorghum Partners®, which began in 2012 with a project on starch characterization in sorghum across different environments. The project was conducted to gain information on the influence of environmental factors in the feeding and fuel value of the crop. Through this project, the Sorghum Checkoff provided sorghum end-users with key research findings.

In 2013, a second project was created with Chromatin and Sorghum Partners® to develop new parental lines, both male and female, with improved combining ability and widespread adaptation by other sorghum seed companies. These new hybrids will be available to be licensed out by other companies in the near future.

Most recently, the Sorghum Checkoff made a substantial investment into Chromatin and Sorghum Partners® in 2017 with the goal of creating ACCase tolerant lines. This project has been extremely successful and has already resulted in the development of parental lines containing the ACCase technology. ACCase tolerance aids the farmer in controlling post-emergence grass control.

“We believe through this investment that germplasm has been developed and expect it will be a useful tool in the field for sorghum farmers,” said Weinheimer. “The technology is viable and will benefit growers when it reaches the farm level.”

These investments were key in creating new products for U.S. farmers that can result in increased yield potential and moving the needle for the sorghum industry. With the announcement of S&W Seed’s purchase of Chromatin, the Sorghum Checkoff will continue to work closely with new management in propelling these technological advancements to farmers’ fields.

Partnerships with companies like S&W Seed Co. remain a valuable investment of the Sorghum Checkoff to generate results in the area of crop improvement.


The Proof is in the Syrup – New Sweet Sorghum Research Findings

Changes in tastes and preferences of the U.S. consumer for healthy, minimally-processed sweeteners have set the stage for the introduction of sweet sorghum syrups as a commercial liquid sweetener. Sweet sorghum is gluten-free and can be produced free of additives and preservatives, which makes it an attractive choice in this consumer-driven market.

A recently funded Sorghum Checkoff project through United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) has been completed demonstrating some valuable health and functionality properties for sweet sorghum syrup. Sweet sorghum syrup was superior to seven of the most common sweeteners and syrups relating to micro-nutrient profiles and protein levels.

Additionally, sweet sorghum contained dramatically higher total phenolic compounds resulting in the best performance of several types of antioxidant testing in comparison to the other test groups. Antioxidant-rich foods are highly valued by consumers as antioxidants may help lower risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and some neurological diseases.

Finally, the Sorghum Checkoff submitted a composite of sweet sorghum samples, and it was determined the sample was low in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols), and thus a beneficial food source for those with digestive health disorders. These findings provide key scientific evidence on how and why sweet sorghum syrup could be utilized as a replacement for some of the current sweeteners on the market and provides a healthy sweetener source for consumers.

This new data of the nutritional and dietary content of sweet sorghum syrups compared to other commercial food-grade syrups will help facilitate large-scale marketing going forward.

“While we have known historically the benefits of sweet sorghum as a natural food source, we didn’t know the full extent of the nutrient benefits until completing this recent study,” said Doug Bice, Sorghum Checkoff market development director. “It is exciting to see positive results like this and how greater usage of sweet sorghum can expand high-value markets for sorghum producers.”

Sweet sorghum syrup is another versatile form of sorghum, which can be utilized not only as a natural sweetener, but also as a preservative, glaze, marinade, form of molasses or simply a tasty syrup to top off your pancakes. As a nutrient-rich sweetener, it can also be used as a binding agent for an energy bar or snack bite.

Sorghum. Nature’s Super Grain® recently worked with Sorghum Checkoff partner Triad to Wellness, a health marketing and communications consulting company founded by two registered dietitian nutritionists, to develop two new fall recipes: pumpkin spice energy bites and sorghum caramel apples, both of which contain sorghum syrup. Visit for more sorghum syrup recipes and sorghum syrup nutrition information.


Simon Joins Sorghum Checkoff as Regional Marketing Director

The Sorghum Checkoff recently named Zach Simon as the organization’s Regional Marketing Director, primarily for the state of Kansas.

In this role, Simon will identify, develop and provide expertise to key marketplaces both domestically and internationally. Simon will work to create opportunities for increased producer profit by increasing demand and value from traditional and non-traditional marketplaces. These marketplaces can range from current areas such as livestock and poultry feeds to newer markets such as pet food, aquaculture, consumer use and beyond. Simon will also work with end-users and producers to establish marketing opportunities for both parties that create long-term relationships and direct marketing avenues.

“We are excited to welcome Zach to Team Sorghum,” said Florentino Lopez, Sorghum Checkoff executive director. “He will be instrumental in working on behalf of sorghum producers to encourage new and value-added markets for this crop while also building upon already established markets.”

Simon obtained his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Kansas State University where he worked as an assistant scientist under Tesfaye Tesso, Ph.D., in the Department of Agronomy. While there, he researched sorghum breeding and genetics for two years. Prior to the Checkoff, Simon also gained experience through his position as a Kansas State University Research and Extension agricultural agent for Sedgwick County with a focus on agronomy.

Simon grew up involved in agriculture on a fifth generation family farm in Kansas, and his passion for helping U.S. farmers is a driving factor in the new work he will be doing for the Sorghum Checkoff. Additionally, Simon was a graduate of Leadership Sorghum Class III where he initially became more familiar with the goals and initiatives of the Sorghum Checkoff.

“My goal through this new position is to help both producers and end-users form mutually beneficial relationships,” said Simon. “I am ready to continue my work for producers in a new aspect with the mission of the Sorghum Checkoff at the forefront.”