was introduced to the Great Plains of the U.S. because it is a dependable crop that thrived in arid regions.
A study conducted by Alan Schlegel with the Kansas State University Experiment Station in Tribune, Kan., found sor- ghum to be a third more water effi cient than corn, and grow- ing sorghum often entails less risk and more yield stability.
“Sorghum is less water intensive than corn, hay and other crops we have traditionally been raising,” said Harshberger. “As water levels continue to decline, value for sorghum remains and growers can still get economic return with that crop.”
Harshberger said as a child, he remembers more grain sor- ghum being grown on his farm and in the area, but when technological advances like herbicide-tolerant corn came about, growers transitioned their sorghum acres to corn acres. Now, considering the current water situation, he feels that direction will change, and more sorghum acres will be planted next year.
“There were some irrigated circles in our area where corn was put in that didn’t make it,” said Harshberger. “If peo- ple would have put sorghum in there, I believe they would have yielded a good crop.”
“In Kansas, we have forgott en this really isn’t a corn grow- ing area, and we don’t have the proper climate for it,” he said. “This year was a harsh reminder of that reality—not that we can’t do it, it’s just not optimal.”
Harshberger said the transition to corn also occurred when the domestic market for sorghum declined, which also af-
“I think it is very important to continue to strive to achieve advanced biofuels status with grain sorghum,” said Harsh- berger. “This is very important not only in Kansas but in the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma, as well, and it will
„Water is something everyone should be passionate, concerned and knowledgeable about.‰
increase market demand for sorghum and help those areas save water in the process.”
Biofuels policy is not the only thing that can aff ect water conservation in the Sorghum Belt. Past farm bills have included broad water conservation initiatives that have helped to lay the ground work for more focused programs for future farm policy.
The 2002 Farm Bill contained the Ogallala Initiative to help bring focus to water conservation problems in the critical area of the Sorghum Belt. In the 2008 Farm Bill, that initia- tive transitioned to the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) under the Environmental Quality Incen- tives Program (EQIP) umbrella, and actual dollars were targeted toward water conservation.
Specifi cally under AWEP, producers are selected by the Unit- ed States Department of Agriculture Secretary to participate based upon water enhancement activities, which include production of less water-intensive agricultural commodities.
Sorghum faired well compared to corn in many areas during this year’s drought. Photo by Lindsay Kennedy
fected the price of sorghum. Now that the state of Kansas has nine biofuel facilities that use grain sorghum to make ethanol, demand for sorghum has increased, he said.
This domestic market for sorghum stands to be enhanced signifi cantly if sorghum is included as an advanced biofuel in the Environmental Protection Agency’s supplemental rule of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2).
SORGHUM Grower Fall 2011
In the next farm bill, National Sorghum Producers’ goal is to promote increased focus on sorghum and its imperative role in conserving water.
Harshberger said it is important to support all eff orts to incentivize or promote ideas to implement crops that will result in less water consumption, like sorghum.
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