LUBBOCK, TEXAS, US — The United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP), the University of California, Merced, and the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources announced on Aug. 12 a five-year partnership to promote drought resilience in sorghum and increase demand for the cereal crop in biofuel and bioproduct markets.

Efforts for the partnership will primarily be conducted at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center located south of Fresno, California., US. However, the partnership includes faculty and researchers at UC Merced, and the results will benefit sorghum producers throughout the country.

“We are excited to launch such a unique program aimed at helping address the world’s pressing water issues while at the same time increasing demand for a drought-tolerant crop like sorghum,” said Norma Ritz Johnson, executive director of the USCP. “This program is in perfect alignment with the Sorghum Checkoff’s goal of increasing sorghum producer profitability as drought and water scarcity is a challenge faced by most sorghum producers in the U.S. Furthermore, with the recent renewed focus on renewable energy production, promoting a versatile crop like sorghum in biofuel and bioproduct markets is a timely endeavor.”

The program represents the first collaboration of its kind between the Sorghum Checkoff and the University of California, and key activities will include breeding, gene discovery, phenotyping and research related to the impacts of roots, soil microbes, photosynthesis and management on drought resilience as well as biofuel and bioproduct usage.

“We look forward to the vital research this partnership will support and the benefits it will yield for the sorghum industry as well as natural resource management,” said Glenda Humiston, vice president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. “We are pleased to partner with Sorghum Checkoff and UC Merced to help advance sorghum as food, feed and biofuel.”  

Thomas Harmon, professor and chair of UC Merced’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, added, “UC Merced is growing its research and teaching in sustainable agriculture, as evidenced by our future Experimental Smart Farm. We are excited by this novel and potentially game-changing partnership.”

The agreement will provide a cornerstone for a new era of research in sorghum, said Kent Martin, USCP chairman. 

“Sorghum producers working to overcome the impacts of drought and build new markets will benefit from the outcomes of this project well into the future,” he said.

The resources will be used to hire a program leader, provide capital for program activities and support ongoing research over the next five years. Overseen by an advisory committee, the program leader will actively seek additional funding for projects that serve the objectives of this program and to extend the life of the program beyond 2026.