Research at UF/IFAS could make Southeastern sorghum fields a reality

Sorghum is a major grain that has the potential to be even bigger. Grown for cattle feed and as a source for table syrup, sorghum is the third largest cereal crop grown in the U.S. by acreage. In fact, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of sorghum. Additionally, this cereal crop also shows great possibilities as a biofuel. Any farmer on the lookout for a crop that has the potential to explode with demand would do well to consider this grain. Except growers in the Southeast.

SorghumWhile the Southeast’s warm climate makes it a desirable setting for growing many different crops, sorghum isn’t one of them.  Hot and humid weather encourages the growth of a fungus called anthracnose. The fungus causes leaf blight and stem rot, making the cultivation of most sorghum south of the Mason-Dixon Line a “tough row to hoe.”

However, recent research by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor of microbiology and cell science, could change all that. Vermerris identified two new spots in the sorghum genome that provide resistance to anthracnose; both spots were previously unknown, according to a UF/IFAS press release on the research. This mapping of anthracnose-resistant sections of the grain’s genome will allow further efforts into developing new hybrids and cultivars using resistant sorghum plants.

Such hybrids and cultivars may allow the cereal crop to flourish as a Southeastern crop in the future. Any grower in Southeastern states like Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas who is looking for the next important crop in the U.S. would do well to follow the development of the grain’s success as a biofuel and the success of cultivating anthracnose-resistant sorghum. It’s no surprise that such research—the kind that has the potential to have a major impact on agriculture in this country—is coming out of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.