2004 proved to be a good year for grain sorghum, with record yields throughout the Great Plains. But the grain sorghum industry has tremendous challenges, according to Tim Lust, executive director of the National Grain Sorghum Producers. Lust addressed the Sorghum Improvement Center of North America at the North American Grain Congress in Reno, Nev. this week.
"For many in the seed industry, a big question is, 'where are we going to be in 2005?' Acres have decreased, but the yield increase in 2004 was good," Lust says. "But we know that yield potential and grass control in grain sorghum must improve. It is seriously limiting our ability to compete in crop rotations."
Researchers are addressing those two agronomic traits, but President Bush's proposed budget could affect potential headway. The Agricultural Research Service, Lust explains, has increased grain sorghum research funding from $2.7 million per year to $7.2 million. Six new grain sorghum research positions have been filled. "But the President's budget voids more than $4 million of that money for research. We must remain active in that discussion," he says.
On the plus side, the Risk Management Agency of USDA has approved GRP/GRIP insurance for grain sorghum producers and in Kansas and two counties in Colorado, a silage sorghum insurance pilot program is underway.
The ethanol industry, Lust adds, is a boon to the industry. "Seven ethanol plants have either been built or are proposed," he says. "What an impact that can have in the sorghum belt, where basis prices are typically low."
Lust sums up the industry this way: "We need to have breakthroughs. The future is in our hands and we must figure out a way for private industry to invest money and people."