November 2023 HP Article

Brent Bean, Sorghum Checkoff Director of Agronomy

This last summer, I started my ninth year as the Director of Agronomy for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. Prior to joining the Checkoff, I had what I thought was a good understanding of what they did, and in reality, I had no idea of the depth of what the Checkoff does for sorghum growers. 

The Sorghum Checkoff is a producer-funded organization dedicated to improving the sustainability of the sorghum industry through research, promotion and education. Checkoff funds come directly from producers by an assessment of 0.6% of the net value of grain sorghum and 0.35% of the net market value of sorghum forage. The assessment is collected by the first purchasers, for example, if grain is sold to the local elevator at $5 a bushel, then the Checkoff is paid 6 cents per bushel. A significant portion of these funds are then passed back to the sorghum state organizations to fund their programs.

The Checkoff is directed by a 13-member board of directors composed of sorghum growers, ensuring funds are used efficiently and meet grower objectives. They do not get paid for their service, and given a chance, I hope you will thank them for unselfishly giving of their time and expertise.  A testament to the fantastic work that they do is from the last referendum on the Checkoff, where sorghum growers overwhelmingly supported its continuation by a 96.5 percent approval vote!

This year marks 15 years of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and over the past decade-and-a-half, the Checkoff has made significant strides on behalf of producers. Successes include funneling resources into cutting-edge research to advance production techniques.

One of the key agronomic contributions was the rapid reaction to the sugarcane aphid, now known as the sorghum aphid, which had the potential to devastate the sorghum industry. The Checkoff quickly mobilized seed and crop protection companies, along with university and ARS scientists, to work together to develop aphid tolerant hybrids, label effective insecticides and establish best management practices to control the pest. Information to combat the aphid was quickly passed to growers through the many channels developed by the Checkoff communications team, including this column. 

A recent milestone that the board worked tirelessly on was the advancement of over-the-top grass control in sorghum. As of 2023, we now have three technologies–Double Team, Inzen and igrowth–that are very effective in postemergence grass control in sorghum. 

There are many current projects now being funded by the Checkoff that have the potential to significantly impact and increase sorghum grower profitability. One project is the development of sorghum germplasm with tolerance to iron deficiency. A second is a fundamental examination of the traits needed in sorghum to enhance yield under both limited water and more optimum growing conditions. These are what I call ‘big swing projects’ that are not easy to accomplish and will take time, but have the potential to move the needle forward for the industry as a whole. 

For more information on what the Sorghum Checkoff is all about, visit our website at