From Soil to Stores: Bright Horizon for Food-Grade Sorghum

By Cailee Gilbreath, Communications Intern

Herrmann has always produced an array of dryland crops utilizing no-till methods due to water constraints. As a result, grain sorghum has made it into his cropping system during the 44 years he has been in the business, but it wasn’t until three years ago he decided to try something new.

“Southern Plains Coop came to me, and they wanted to know if I’d be interested in growing white food grade milo,” Herrmann said. “They were picking some growers out they thought would do a good job, and I was interested in it. I’m always looking for something different to do.”

Since then, Herrmann has grown 160 acres of a variety of white grain sorghum from Richardson Seed Company for the Lewis, Kan., based coop for three years.

"The yield is as good as anything," Herrmann said. "I've just really been happy with it, and it requires about the same management.  If it takes off like they say it will, I will plant more acres myself."

The increased interest in sorghum food products could be attributed to a number of factors, including being a nutritious, ancient, whole grain product. Sorghum is also unique in the fact that it is naturally gluten-free, non-transgenic and is easily adaptable to a variety of dishes.

The rising popularity of white food-grade sorghum is opening new doors within the food industry for growers.  New food products containing white sorghum are hitting the shelves frequently, which include not only specialty, niche products but mainstream ones, as well. In fact, the most recent food-product launch included Kellogg’s gluten-free Special K cereal.

Food-grade sorghum is adding overall value for growers across the nation, especially in Herrmann's case.

Herrmann fully recognizes sorghum's worth when he puts it to the test. The result - lower input costs, and sorghum performs well utilizing dryland, no-till methods.

“So many times when I have dry land corn in a field and I have split fields where half is dryland corn and the other half milo,” Herrmann said, “I’ll get 85 bushel [per acre] dry land corn on a good year and milo right next to it is makes 100 [bushels per acre] or better.”

Since the early 1980s, Herrmann has capitalized on maximizing sorghum's profitability by seizing the opportunity to increase his premium through on-farm storage.

Through all of the added value sorghum brings to Herrmann's farm, he believes sorghum will remain a vital part of his cropping system for years to come.

“I enjoy growing milo,” Herrmann said. “I think the opportunity for white grain sorghum is just going to improve.”