Sorghum: A Growing Interest in the Mid-Atlantic


By: Kayla Wilkins, Communications Intern

Grain sorghum is a rising crop for North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic region.

The Mid-Atlantic feed grain initiative has been underway for the last four years as a result of the collaboration between Murphy-Brown LLC, the Sorghum Checkoff, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and regional agricultural universities. This initiative has challenged producers to increase local grain production in order to meet the growing demand in the area.

As a product of the challenge, growers are increasingly interested in producing grains, especially sorghum. To address the interest, Murphy Brown sponsored a Managing Crop Strategies and Farm Profitability Seminar on Feb. 4, 2015, in Raleigh, N.C. The event highlighted marketing, production and technology as it relates to efficiently producing grain sorghum in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Demand for locally produced grains in the Mid-Atlantic region, specifically for livestock feed, have skyrocketed in recent years. Terry Coffey, Ph.D., the chief technology officer for Murphy-Brown LLC, stressed the importance of growers continuing to drive production to meet the demand Murphy-Brown and other entities have created.

“Our goal is to continue to deliver management information and technology information to farmers in the region to help them be more productive with regard to grain production,” Coffey said.

With high regional demand, Brent Crafton, Sorghum Checkoff regional director, said it is prime time for producers to begin utilizing grain sorghum in their rotations.

“Sorghum producers in the Mid-Atlantic region have a high-value opportunity to market their grain sorghum to meet regional demand bids with originators like Murphy Brown and other local and export markets,” Crafton said. “The Mid-Atlantic feed grains initiative looks to boost grain sorghum production within the region to 500,000 acres over the next few years.”

Murphy-Brown is currently utilizing approximately 6-8 million bushels per year from the region for livestock feed. After extensive research indicating the high nutritional value of grain sorghum, Coffey said Murphy-Brown has committed to being a steady marketplace for producers.

“This state [North Carolina] has an appetite for grain, at least two times more than what is produced,” Coffey said. “There is opportunity. There is no question there these producers live in an area with a good market for grains.”

Researchers are also bringing focus to this new, old crop for the Mid-Atlantic, as well. Ron Heiniger, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University referred to sorghum as the hidden gem of commodities. He said sorghum has many desirable qualities that make it a perfect fit for this region and achieving 100-bushels per acre or better grain sorghum is very possible.

“Grain sorghum is competitive crop-profitability wise,” Heiniger said. “I think growers need to recognize that opportunity, and that’s what we were trying to get them to think about.”

Grain sorghum is a key feed grain and crop that is well suited for the Mid-Atlantic region, and the Sorghum Checkoff continues to support this exciting time for producers and the growing Mid-Atlantic feed grain initiative.

"Sorghum fits very well in many crop rotations where each crop can complement one another and potentially provide a welcome boost in yield," Crafton said, "and the Sorghum Checkoff will continue working to make sorghum a more profitable crop for producers.”

For the presentations from this event, follow this link:

For more information about production of grain sorghum, follow this link: