Sorghum has been a superfood for thousands of years — and the United States is taking notice.
The ancient crop was first discovered and cultivated in Africa thousands of years ago. It’s a grass species cultivated for its grain and is used to feed animals and humans alike. It’s also used in ethanol production, bio-plastics, aqua-culture and nutraceuticals.
Mike Baker, the chairman of the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board, said sorghum can be grown in a handful of areas across the United States ranging as far south as Texas up to Minnesota and Wisconsin. The sweet spots, however, are Kansas and southern Nebraska.
For farmers and small business owners, sorghum could positively impact everyday business operations such as:
- Cutting down on supply chain interruptions
- Decreasing carbon footprint
- Strengthening food systems security
- Diversified revenue opportunities for family farms
1. It’s an excellent rotational crop
“You can use sorghum as a rotational crop, and there’s a lot of benefits there,” Baker said. “When you rotate crops in and out, it’s just so beneficial. Sorghum is very drought-resistant and can get rid of certain pests. Its makeup prevents problems that could come up without it.”
Sorghum is best planted after legumes (soybean, pea, alfalfa), followed by corn. Farmers who rotate a single crop without sorghum miss out on higher yields. Sorghum has a fibrous makeup that boots pests and is an excellent alternative to corn in dry areas as sorghum needs very little water.
2. It’s non-GMO
More than 50% of American adults are wary of the health effects of genetically modified foods, and farmers and small business owners can benefit from producing a crop that is certified non-GMO. For consumers who prefer to avoid GMO's, Sorghum is a great choice.
3. It’s gluten-free
Sorghum is gluten-free and an excellent alternative to wheat, rye and barley. Nutritionally dense, sorghum is rich in vitamins, rivaling the much-hyped quinoa. This makes sorghum an excellent choice for those struggling with gluten intolerance and celiac disease or those who simply prefer a non-gluten diet.
Some nutrients, vitamins and minerals you will find in sorghum include:
- Vitamin B6
4. It’s sustainable
Sorghum has other uses besides being a whole grain food source used for breads, baking mixes, cereal and more. When used as feed for dairy, swine and poultry, the crop is not wasted. Instead, it can be used for hay, pasture and silage. It uses less water than corn, which makes it ideal for producing ethanol. Sorghum can survive harsh conditions, limiting waste.
Sorghum’s versatility has made it an excellent option for things like packing peanuts and building materials — establishing it as a valuable, sustainable crop for the future.
5. It’s drought-resistant
Sorghum is valuable in states like Kansas and Nebraska that do not get enough rain to grow other crops.
“Sorghum utilizes water very efficiently and is a great fit for this region where irrigation is not an option,” Baker said. “Sorghum is a very tough crop to beat.”
Baker said sorghum farmers and business owners working in sorghum regularly leverage value added specialty markets. Sorghum is rapidly gaining in popularity among consumers both in the US and abroad, and whether as a commodity or a high-value specialized product that people want and need, sorghum is a good investment. To learn more, contact the Nate Blum at Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Everything has variables,” Baker said. “But sorghum is trading at a premium to corn right now. You can grow it cheaper. It has a higher return on investment, and the demand remains.”
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