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Coming to a Field Near You

02:41AM Jul 26, 2014

FJ 064 F14218( Darrell Smith )

First-ever native trait for grain sorghum is now under development

DuPont Company is now developing the first-ever native trait for grain sorghum, and it could reach U.S. farmers’ fields as early as 2016.

The trait, named Inzen, was identified by sorghum breeders at Kansas State University (K-State). Inzen is a non-genetically modified trait, meaning it will not be subject to the regulations imposed on transgenic products by USDA. That presents greater international marketing opportunity for farmers and the crops that will be grown from hybrids with the trait.

"We expect to be able to expand our sorghum exports around the world because it contains no GMOs [genetically modified organisms]," notes Wayne Schumacher, new technology launch manager for DuPont.

Sorghum hybrids containing the trait will be commercialized initially by DuPont Pioneer and Advanta US. Schumacher expects other companies will also sign-on to use the trait in their sorghum hybrids.

The U.S. exports almost half of the sorghum it produces and controls 70% to 80% of world sorghum exports, according to the USDA–National Agricultural Statistics Service. Worldwide, more than half of the sorghum grown is for human consumption.  

Complete package. DuPont is also developing a novel nicosulfuron-based herbicide formulation that it is branding as Zest for farmers to use for over-the-top weed control, in conjunction with the Inzen-based sorghum hybrids. Nicosulfuron is an active ingredient that many farmers are familiar with, as it has been marketed as Accent for postemergence weed control in corn.

Schumacher says market research by K-State scientists indicates the ability to control grass weeds is a significant concern for farmers as they manage sorghum for maximum yield. 

"We find that grass causes about a 20% yield loss, or 13 bu. per acre, on average in sorghum," he notes. The percentage loss is calculated based on an average U.S. sorghum yield of 65 bu. per acre.

The Inzen trait offers the potential for use in hybrids anywhere sorghum is grown. Farmers in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas produce most of the grain sorghum grown in the U.S.

DuPont also has several field trials underway this summer as it ramps up for commercial use.

Schumacher notes that farmers might be encouraged to grow more sorghum given its current price relative to corn. 

"The basis for sorghum is 20¢ to 30¢ above corn at a number of the ports right now, so it’s a very viable, economic-positive crop," he says. "Will we get back up to the 12 million acres we once grew? We don’t know, but there’s no reason we can’t." 

Sorghum Research Expands

DuPont Pioneer and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program announce a collaboration to advance genetic tools and opportunities with grain sorghum. Under a three-year agreement, the partners will concentrate on:
  • A search for a haploid inducer line, the first step in the development of double haploid sorghum breeding programs. If successful, this development would significantly advance sorghum breeding speed.
  • The development of a high throughput, precision screening method for stress-induced stalk lodging, which targets an important agronomic challenge for sorghum farmers.
  • The development of non- and low-tillering sorghum hybrids, which would allow sorghum farmers to leverage precision farming techniques.