Sorghum Field Day

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. We’re at the Agronomy Farm on the K-State campus and it is the Sorghum Field Day here on the farm. We at K-State do more than just wheat research, we do lots of things. Sorghum is one of ’em. I think you’re gonna want to come back here in a second and listen to our researchers talk about the various aspects of grain sorghum production. We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm and our first guest this morning at the Agronomy Sorghum Field Day is Dr. Ignacio Ciampitti. He’s our Cropping Systems Researcher and Extension Specialist. Ignacio we’re talking about sorghum obviously at the Sorghum Field Day. Your presentation is about production practices. So, kind of tell us what you’ve been doing the last couple of years on sorghum. (Ignacio) Yea, thanks for the invitation to speak about this. One of the things that we have been doing in the last years and one of the main questions that we get from farmers is what are the main practices that we can implement in the field in order to increase yields? That’s the main question. (Jim) OK. Right. (Ignacio) We are trying very different factors. We have the last two years. We are doing experiments across the state. We have experiments in Hutchinson, Belleville, Ottawa, western Kansas and the goal is to make sure that we try different combinations of practices. (Jim) Right, since in eastern Kansas for example the population would be higher than western. But I know that you are doing more than plant populations. (Ignacio) We are testing plant populations. We are testing row spacing. There are people asking questions about what happens when you do rows 15 versus 30 inch. We are testing fungicide, insecticide applications. (Jim) Fungicide and insecticides right. (Ignacio) We are testing different nutrient combinations. When people are taking care of macronutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and micronutrients. (Jim) Micronutrients. (Ignacio) Yea, we are kind of testing a little different combinations and then the goal of the experiment is trying to come up with some kind of a standard practice… (Jim) Right. (Ignacio) …that we can at least share with our farmers in different areas. And I think that we are very excited because we are getting to the end of the final second year. We will continue this at least for the last years. But one of the things that we are looking at with the researchers is always going to the same point. Looking on the eastern side when we are having yields that are above a hundred bushels. Sometimes not really so much heat is the main factor that is stressing the crop. (Jim) You’re saying heat is the main factor. (Ignacio) Heat is one of the main factors that is stressing the crop. (Jim) OK. (Ignacio) Through eastern Kansas we are seeing for example that we can increase population, we can narrow rows and if you do a very good application of balance application of macro and micronutrients then you get sometimes benefits as compared to standard practice, nothing else. You get around 10 to 20 bushels. (Jim) OK. (Ignacio) Only on those practices. (Jim) OK. (Ignacio) When you go to central and the western side, those combinations sometimes they don’t work that well. (Jim) Right, right, exactly the higher plant population in the western part, not so good. (Ignacio) And you see why, when you go to the western side we sometimes are looking at yields that are probably even lower and we are seeing some stress combination, heat and drought is really one of the big factors when you move to central, western side. (Jim) Right. (Ignacio) Only in the dryland situations. So in those situations you are seeing that narrow rows might be a good factor, but increasing population is a factor that is not really adding more benefits. One of the things that we are seeing with the narrow rows, this year we are seeing some benefits. And we want to study… (Jim) We had more rain this year. (Ignacio) This year was very peculiar. We had more rain. And I think what you are seeing is very wet conditions early season, the crop was kind of standing. So narrow rows was really helping to cover the canopy. (Jim) Don’t go away Ignacio, we gotta take a break. Folks, don’t go away. Grab a cup of coffee, come on back and we’ll hear from Ignacio again. See ya in a second.

(Jim) Ignacio, I had to cut you off there for the station break, but let’s continue what you were talking about with the narrow rows and the moisture. (Ignacio) This year as you mentioned before what conditions, narrow rows is making a big benefit. The plans from now moving forward that quickly as compared with last year because it was too wet. So now, narrow rows this year are really showing that we can cover the canopy. We are seeing a lot of situations when you are working the field you still can see the soil. (Jim) Right. right. (Ignacio) And that is bad. (Jim) Right. (Ignacio) More in this year that we had the rain. The main factor that was limiting it was interception of light, increasing biomass, increasing the yields. In some scenarios we see that row spacing is not really good. (Jim) OK. Good is not the right word, no advantage. (Ignacio) No advantage. And the point of saying if you narrow rows and if you don’t have the rain, that is probably the opposite. (Jim) Yea, right. What about out west, way out west? (Ignacio) Way out west we are seeing for example narrow rows is not really a good benefit. We are seeing that we are not limited by light. (Jim) Right. (Ignacio) Our main limiting factor is water. (Jim) What about insecticides and fungicides on sorghum? (Ignacio) That’s an excellent question. This year and last year we didn’t have much pressure of insects or… (Jim) Disease. (Ignacio) Or disease. (Jim) Last year. (Ignacio) Last year. This year for sure we have more. We still didn’t see much benefit last year, when you compare most of the locations. Sometimes people tend to use fungicides as a kind of a stay green effect. (Jim) A prophylactic to stay green, yea. (Ignacio) The plant will remain green. We didn’t see so much benefits on that specific point. This year we are expecting to harvest a couple of locations. I’m hoping to see more benefits from an insect side. (Jim) Right. OK. I know you’re doing some other things with farmers. So, tell us a little bit about that. (Ignacio) That is probably the most exciting part of my job. The one that I really enjoy most of the days, is really working with farmers and then going with them and taking a look to different plots. We are working at least with 20 farmers around the state and pulling plots. And what we do…we are testing very simple things. On sorghum we have a couple of studies in central and western Kansas and we are testing plant population. It’s very interesting because sometimes we have discussions even with colleagues they say, we already know about this. (Jim) Hmm huh, right. (Ignacio) Set in stone. We know what are the numbers. And then you start to find that each farm is different. (Jim) Right, right. (Ignacio) When you go to a farm and you put those trials, they start to find that a population changed. (Jim) Right. (Ignacio) And their populations will change with the year and the location. (Jim) Exactly, exactly. (Ignacio) So, it’s good to work with farmers and they can see the complexity. (Jim) Right. (Ignacio) So, they can feel what we are dealing with every day when we are working. (Jim) Well, one good thing about sorghum is if you do plant it at a lower population it can tiller. You don’t want that in corn obviously. (Ignacio) Exactly. (Jim) But in sorghum it can tiller. (Ignacio) But one of the things that we found last year for example, there are height differences. (Jim) Oh yea. (Ignacio) So one farmer, this is a very short story, one farmer was picking a hybrid that was really no match when he put in a low population and with this trial in different populations he found out the response was very similar to corn. (Jim) Right. Ignacio, we’ve got to stop now. Thank you for taking time out to talk with us and we’ll see you down the road. (Ignacio) Yea. (Jim) Folks, we’ve got to take a station break, so come on back after that and we’ll start the show again.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer and our next guest is Dr. Geoffrey Morris. And Geoff, he is our Sorghum Geneticist and thanks for being on the show this morning. We’ve got a beautiful day for the Field Day. You’ve got some strange looking sorghums in your hand here. That’s not the kind that we normally grow. You know we’ve been growing sorghums in Kansas for 150 years basically. But you’ve got some weird stuff here. So kind of tell us that background of the sorghum if you will. (Geoff) Well, sorghum is one of the most diverse crops in the entire world. And here at K-State we can take advantage of that diversity of sorghum from all around the world to develop the next sorghums for Kansas farmers. This is an example of one of those stray sorghums. This one’s from Somalia, one of the hottest places in the world. So, this guy has adapted to living in 120 degrees in the shade, so we’re hoping that this one and… (Jim) That should fit then. (Geoff) Yea…the other ones here could be our next source of heat tolerance, drought tolerance or cold tolerance. (Jim) So, kind of go through I mean, this is a sorghum. Right? It’s just like our current day sorghums, but what makes this one different than say our current sorghums that we’re growing now? Is this a variety or is this a hybrid? (Geoff) So, this is basically a farmer variety from Somalia, somebody maybe 50 or 100 years ago went to a village in Somalia and collected it. It turns out this one is actually a pretty close cousin to the milos that were grown 75-100 years ago in Kansas. And trapped in this plant and its cousins are genes that confer tolerance to cold…to drought and to heat. And what we do in the genetics program is to find those genes that make it more able to deal with stressful conditions. And then we provide genetic markers that can help the breeding program get that into the elite parental lines. (Jim) Into the inbreds, right? (Geoff) Inbred right. (Jim) OK, so this is more of the old milo type. So, what do we have here? (Geoff) Well, this one looks similar in a lot of ways from a very different part of the world. This is from northern China and this is a good example of where we’re going for cold tolerance. You can see it looks very unusual. so we have a lot of work to do to get the cold tolerance genes from varieties like this into the U.S. inbred and on to the seed companies. But we’re applying a lot of new tools, the same type of tools that are revolutionizing medicine with personalized genomics are giving us a genetic fingerprint for cold tolerance in these Chinese lines. (Jim) OK, so that will speed up the process of extracting those genes basically? (Geoff) Exactly. The breeding cycle takes many, many years and with these new genomic technologies, we hope we can shave off a number of years from going from the diverse lines from around the world into the farmers field. (Jim) OK. Now, cold tolerance is one of the big issues we have with sorghum, why we plant it after all the other crops. Right? Because of that. (Geoff) Yea. (Jim) Geoff, I’ve got some more questions for you and you’ve got some more crops, more things to show us here. Don’t go away. Folks, don’t go away we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer and with us we have Geoff Morris our Geneticist on sorghum. And Geoff, I want to thank you for being on the show but also not running off during the break because a lot of my guests run off during the break, so I appreciate that. Hey, this is an interesting looking sorghum. So, tell us a little bit about this one. (Geoff) Yea, one of the really exciting new things for sorghum growers in the last few years is the explosion in the speciality grains market, the health food market. (Jim) Oh more of a niche market. (Geoff) Yea, with that niche market. And a big part of that is these pigmented sorghums. Sorghums come in all colors of the rainbow and consumers are really excited to find new healthy foods. And so these types of sorghums with purple, red, brown pigmentation are showing up in our grocery stores, in our cereals, pastas, and granola bars. And so this is an exciting new market for sorghum farmers. (Jim) OK, so what’s special about this one? (Geoff) Yea, this one has high levels of a healthy compound called anthocyanins. This is the thing that you might see on the blueberry package saying buy these fruits so you get…(Jim) High antioxidants. (Geoff)…high antioxidants. (Jim) Right. (Geoff) Turns out sorghum is a great source, one of the best sources of these antioxidants. (Jim) Right, that’s really interesting. Does color make the difference? In a cream would you have high antioxidants? (Geoff) You might, you might. Most of the high antioxidant varieties are these highly pigmented colorful ones. But there’s also pigments underneath the outer seed coat. (Jim) Seed coat. (Geoff) And so tan in sorghums is not something that we’ve seen in Kansas for a long time. But those are coming back as a part of this health food market. (Jim) Now, I know you’ve got…let me grab this one right here. Now this one… this one doesn’t look too good to me. I mean a lot of farmers will recognize this as shattercane. So, why do you have this here? (Geoff) Yea, not only is this shattercane, but this shattercane that came all the way across the world from Botswana. So we have plenty of shattercane here in Kansas, why import any more? (Jim) Yea, why import any more? (Geoff) And this really highlights how some…we can get really valuable traits from the most unlikely of sources. One of the recent successes at K-State has been the release of new herbicide tolerance… (Jim) In sorghum. (Geoff) …in sorghum. And these weedy sorghums are one of the places that we go to find new sources of herbicide tolerance. They manage to live all over the world without any help from us. I mean they are very tough plants that can have useful traits that we can extract using genetics and breeding. (Jim) Right. So this one could lead to some herbicide resistance or maybe some insect resistance or disease or heat or drought stress. (Geoff) Drought stress resistance, exactly. And our job in the genetics program is to go through thousands and thousands of lines that are available from the world, to sift through them and find those nuggets of gold that are trapped inside them. (Jim) OK. Geoff, I really appreciate you talking to us about the different sorghum facts; that’s always fascinated me. (Geoff) Thank you. (Jim) Folks, we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) And with us we have Dr. Tesfaye Tesso, our Sorghum breeder here at K-State. And Tesfaye, we heard from Geoff Morris just a little bit ago talking about the sources, where drought tolerant comes from, Somalia, and cold tolerance from China. Tell us how you, tell us about your sorghum program, your breeding program, and how you use those sources from around the world. (Tesfaye) Those two traits that Geoff mentioned are two of the several traits we are taking as priority to improve sorghum here, cold tolerance, drought tolerance, enhancing yield potential and also developing resistance for herbicide resistance are some of the major goals of our program. With regard to the two particular traits, for cold tolerance, scientists have already identified places, cold places where sorghum is growing like China, were potentially the most promising areas to go and explore. So, people went there several years ago and brought a lot of materials back and then they found out 20 years ago that Chinese materials were much, much superior in terms of emergence as well as single vigor under cold temperature conditions. (Jim) Right. (Tesfaye) So, they started using those inbreeding programs but it turned out that all these Chinese materials have high tannin content in them that reduces protein availability in the feedlot as well as for food sources. (Jim) In the room when you were talking about when the cattle are eating at the tannin… (Tesfaye) The tannin binds with the protein, so the protein doesn’t become available to them. (Jim) Right. OK. (Tesfaye) So, that was a drawback with that one, and then that was dropped. What we started working on recently is that we tried to look at sorghums from European highlands for example, that is cold. And we tried to see if there is anything that is of good cold tolerance sources there and then that effort is going on. But in the mean time there is a mutation breeding work that was going on and then the mutant populations that was derived from TX-623, some of them were found to be tolerant to cold temperature. We brought and tested them in our field for a couple of seasons and then we found about two of them to be really very good. We included those into our breeding programs. (Jim) Cause those probably don’t look too good, do they? (Tesfaye) They do good match better than what we have, so we tested them under cold temperature conditions. I was sharing that with them, I’ll have a couple of slides, they’ll actually see them. (Jim) OK. (Tesfaye) So, they look promising. But I am very optimistic that there is maybe much better sources that are out there. But what is needed is to spend time and energy on them and explore this difference. (Jim) What about heat and drought? (Tesfaye) We don’t focus much on heat, but on drought, again major drought tolerance sources that we use in the breeding program today come from West Africa- Ethiopia and the Sudan. (Jim) Tesfaye, I want to thank you for taking time to talk to us about the program. (Tesfaye) Thank you very much. (Jim) And we’ll be talking to you again soon. Folks, thank you for being with us today. And don’t forget this time next Friday we’re going to have another issue of That’s My Farm.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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