A Sorghum Revival on the High Plains?
Sorghum is “the camel of crops,” reports Dan Charles for NPR’s The Salt. Sorghum “doesn’t need much water. Compared with corn, for instance, it needs one-third less water, and it doesn’t give up and wilt when rains don’t come on time. It waits for moisture to arrive.”
A confluence of factors may make sorghum (not the tall syrup sorghum, but the shorter growing sorghum typically grown for its seed) more popular in the United States moving forward, even though it yields worse than corn. These factors include, primarily, its drought tolerance, but curiously, also consumer interest and demand.
According to Gebisa Ejeta, who won the World Food Prize in 2009 for his work on sorghum, the crops wider adoption may depend on changes in what it costs farmers to access water. “If water is given its real value, and you limit irrigation, or people begin to pay for water, it would be economically smarter to grow sorghum in several areas of the United States,” he says.
From a consumer standpoint, or food industry standpoint, “this old-fashioned crop even seems to be catching on among consumers who are looking for ‘ancient grains’ that have been relatively untouched by modern agriculture.” Earl Roemer, interviewed by Charles, set up a company called Nu Life Market to sell sorghum flour to large food companies. He claims twenty-five percent increases in demand annually.
You can read more about the ‘camel of crops’ here.