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tinue to limit California farmers from putting the same amount of irrigation water on other grain crops as they have in the past. “Dairies still need the forage and ethanol plants still

need grain, so sorghum could be a key crop and a great fit for California,” Duff said. Chromatin Inc., a sorghum seed company, has placed

a particular focus on developing the crop’s potential in California. Scott Staggenborg, director of applied feed- stock services for Chromatin Inc., said sorghum is built to withstand the sometimes harsh growing environment of that region. “California may have some of the greatest potential we

will ever realize,” Staggenborg said. “Sorghum will pro- duce high silage yields on less water and handles some of the lower quality and salty water they are forced to use when water is scarce.”

“Dairies still need the forage and ethanol plants still need grain, so sorghum could be a key crop and a great fit for California.”

“ Staggenborg said crop rotation would help Califor-

nia farmers reduce resistant weed populations, provide residue on the soil surface to reduce wind erosion in the spring, and improve cotton yields by 10 to 15 percent. “We will keep discussing the positive attributes of sor-

ghum,” Staggenborg said, “and know that if we keep the message strong and consistent, we will help people un- derstand the benefits.” Dr. Jeff Dahlberg, director of the Kearney Agricul-

tural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, Calif., is heading up an effort called Sorghum for California, which aims to increase the use of sorghum as a multi-purpose, low-input crop for California. Dahlberg said in order to understand sorghum in Cali-

fornia, you first need to understand California. “Water has been an issue in California for over 100 years,” Dahlberg said. “Over 350 commodity crops are gown in

SORGHUM Grower Fall 2014

the state. We must convince farmers that sorghum can be just as high value. Efforts will be made to encourage farmers to rotate their crops – cotton and tomatoes one year, then sorghum the next.” Dahlberg said he sees the biggest potential for sorghum

forage replacing corn forage for California’s $6.9 billion dairy industry. However, another industry may place even more demand for the crop.

California ethanol production California’s ethanol industry currently transports a

majority of their corn from the Midwest. However, as the state begins to recognize sorghum’s water savings potential, officials are investigating the crop’s value as a state-produced alternative to the railed-in Midwest corn. In late July, the California Energy Commission an-

nounced ethanol producers Aemetis Inc., Calgren Re- newable Fuels and Pacific Ethanol LLC each would re- ceive $3 million to develop grain sorghum as a feedstock for their operations. “Te California ethanol producers like sorghum,” Duff

said. “Tey see sorghum as a smart choice and want to source as much sorghum locally as they possibly can, while relying on the rails that wind up and around the Rockies and back down into the Sorghum Belt for the rest.” Duff said while no one expects sorghum to meet the

demands of California ethanol producers by tomorrow, the three previously stated plants do represent more than 80 million bushels of annual demand. “If they jump even halfway into the sorghum market,

they’re collectively one of the few largest end users on the planet,” Duff said.

Political Pressures California politics have taken note of the impact of the

drought and the water wars that may be on the horizon. Water will very likely be at the center of local, state and national elections in 2016. Te water debate is igniting fears among farmers who

depend on irrigation for their livelihoods that federal offi- cials may seize water they set aside in the San Luis Reser- voir on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. All of these variables—drought, market demand and

the state’s political environment—could set the stage for sorghum to make a comeback in California’s parched agricultural regions.


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