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S&W Seed Brings New Genetics to Sorghum Markets

Australian firm will supply new drought tolerance, disease resistance to U.S. growers.

Grain sorghum producers will soon get their hands on a new source of genetics. The Australian seed firm S&W Seed Company announced earlier this month it has signed a licensing agreement with a major U.S.-based seed company for “…production and marketing of a proprietary hybrid grain sorghum variety in the U.S. as well as Mexico.”

S&W did not disclose which seed company it will license its genetics to, but company officials told Successful Farming magazine that the sorghum genetics it offers would be unique to the U.S. marketplace.

“Australian-type germplasm does very well in the U.S.,” we were told in a conference call. Australia is a warm, dry country, and the hybrids there are ideal in water-short areas, a hallmark of the U.S. western Corn Belt, which is also this country’s ideal sorghum-growing region.

“The Australian sorghums are a little different than what you may see in the U.S. Head type is more open and the plants tend to be taller. This is very good performing material, and we expect to see yield gains over some of the more popular sorghum hybrids,” S&W officials say.

This is the first U.S.-based licensing agreement by S&W for any of its sorghum varieties, positioning it to benefit in a crop gaining increasing popularity in food products due to its gluten-free characteristics, as well as its antioxidant, high-protein, low-fat, high-fiber, and non-GM properties. 

“Sorghum is gaining increasing importance throughout the world due to its efficiency as a high-energy, drought-tolerant crop that is environmentally friendly and has favorable consumer attributes,” said Mark Grewal, CEO of S&W Seed Company, in a news release. “This agreement allows us entry into a growing U.S. sorghum market with a producer that has tremendous capabilities to expand production and drive distribution. We look forward to a long-term and successful relationship with this new licensee.”

Sorghum food consumption in 2015 increased by nearly 40% compared with 2014. More than 350 products on grocery store shelves contain sorghum, and mainstream brands are adding sorghum to new product formulations every year. U.S. sorghum is traditionally grown throughout the Sorghum Belt, which runs from South Dakota to southern Texas, primarily on dryland acres. Recently, acreage increases have been seen in nontraditional areas like the Mississippi Delta and Southeast regions. The top five sorghum-producing states in 2015 were Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. The company estimates the U.S. sorghum seed market at between 25 and 30 million pounds of planting seed, worth an estimated $100 million annually. In 2015, the U.S. produced an estimated 597 million bushels of grain sorghum from 7 to 8 million acres of production.

 

 

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