Herbicide-resistant sorghum nears

The United Sorghum Checkoff Program has been funding research to showcase new over-the-top solutions for controlling grass to allow sorghum growers better management opportunities and flexibility in crop rotations.

When asked about their main concerns regarding sorghum management, many producers have replied “weed control.” But due to a lack of funding, little has been done to produce sorghum varieties that are resistant to many common herbicides used on other crops.

Key Points

• United Sorghum Checkoff Program aims for over-the-top grass control for sorghum.

• New technology will allow producers both weed control and flexibility in rotations.

• Growers can expect to see technology become available by 2012.


Kansas State University is researching a solution to that problem.

Kassim Al-Khatib, professor of agronomy at KSU, says because sorghum is grown primarily in dry regions, preplant herbicides can perform poorly or fail without adequate precipitation. There are some herbicides that can be applied after the crop is established to control weeds, but these products can potentially harm the crop, as well.

“There is considerable need for over-the-top grass control in sorghum,” says Al-Khatib.

Kansas State has identified traits that are resistant to herbicides such as acetolactate synthase, or ALS, and acetyl co-enzyme-A carboxylase, or ACCase, in some sorghum varieties. Incorporating these traits into cultivated sorghum would produce an ALS- and ACCase-resistant plant, allowing for higher sorghum yields and flexibility for producers.

Give growers flexibility

“The new technology will allow producers outstanding weed control and flexibility in crop rotations,” says Al-Khatib.

Herbicides used for weed control in other crops make the rotation to sorghum difficult because sorghum has little resistance to these products. The development of a resistant variety will allow growers the option of planting sorghum following other crops.

Al-Khatib says growers potentially could expect to see this new technology available by 2012.

Specifically, the USCP has funded test plots and trials to demonstrate proper management techniques. These techniques are intended to educate growers on successful methods of using and protecting this over-the-top technology to produce higher-yielding sorghum.

USCP Board Research Committee chairman and sorghum producer Earl Roemer from Healy, Kan., says producers are in need of more crop protection options to increase yield and acres.

Over-the-top protection

“ALS and ACCase resistant sorghum hybrids will provide an over-the-top protection technology that was not available to me or my fellow sorghum producers before,” Roemer says. “This is definitely one example of how producer checkoff dollars are utilized to fund research that meets an important need for them.”

Davidson is with the United Sorghum Checkoff Program.

This article published in the July, 2010 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.