Evaluating Early-Maturing, Cold-Tolerant White Sorghum Cultivars

Final Report for ONC15-007

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2015: $29,998.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information

Summary:

University, NGO, and farmer partners in North Dakota evaluated a screen of 107 sorghum lines in an effort to identify the most promising lines for further evaluation. In 2016 we carried out replicated trials of twenty one lines, two check hybrids, and a mixed population on two organically managed university sites and on one organically managed farm. We also carried out two unreplicated trials on two additional organic farms. Farm animals damaged the planting at one of the farm sites, but we did get useful information from the other locations. Some promising lines appeared, but additional work is called for to clearly work out the potential for sorghum production in North Dakota. Going forward, our university partners will begin increasing the seeds of the best performing lines of sorghum for additional evaluation, potential production, and further breeding.

Introduction:

Sorghum is a warm seasoned grass that is grown in wide rows much like corn, which it outwardly resembles. Unlike corn, sorghum grains are carried in a single head at the top of the plant, and it is largely self-pollinated. It is lower yielding than corn in high production areas with plentiful rain, but in areas with limited rain and especially with higher temperatures, sorghum will often out yield corn. This makes sorghum a popular grain crop on the southern and central plains. It is also dry on the northern plains, but fewer growing degree days limit the use of most of the varieties that are grown further south. Also, nighttime temperatures below 50o F can interfere with pollen development and shedding, which can greatly limit production in a self-pollinated plant. These lower night temperatures are not unusual in parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana, so although sorghum seems like a useful crop in parts of this region, it has not proved dependable to date.

Sorghum bears its grain in a head at the top of the plant.

The grain of sorghum varies in size, color, and texture. Much of the grain grown is reddish to tan in color, although some is also white or white with splashes of red color. In recent years white grain has been sought after to fill the need for flour with no gluten. Many gluten-free products depend upon white sorghum flour, and the market demand appears to be growing rapidly.

Members of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society’s Farm Breeding Club have experimented with some white sorghum accessions donated to FBC by retired plant breeder and ND native, Mat Kolding. A primary focus of Kolding’s sorghum breeding at Oregon State University was early maturing, cold-tolerant lines, grown in areas subject to nighttime temperatures of 45-50o F during flowering (Kolding, personal communication).  These seemed like the lines needed to bring sorghum north and to simultaneously address the new gluten-free market for white-grained sorghum to assure good grain prices for new growers in the North.

FBC members, David Podoll and Steve Zwinger, screened 40 of Kolding’s 106 donated accessions, saving seed and documenting their performance and adaptability to ND growing conditions (funded in part by SARE: FNC10-828). Podoll created a bulk population of the white sorghum varieties that produced mature seed. In 2014 Podoll shared seed with FBC member, Owen Trangsrud, who planted 8 acres near Enderlin (Ransom County, ND). Our preliminary experiences provided proof of concept: these lines exhibit cold tolerance, early maturity, and growing potential for this region. We were able to save seeds readily. Additional evaluations of all the available lines in comparison with the earliest available hybrids, especially under organic management, were clearly needed in order to identify the most useful.

Project Objectives:

Objective 1: Evaluate 107 sorghum lines with known cold-tolerance traits for adaptation and performance in North Dakota.       

Objective 2: Identify sorghum accessions with marketable milling qualities paired with agronomic performance in northern tier states.

Objective 3: Demonstrate the agronomic and market feasibility of white sorghum as an alternative crop option for northern growers.

Objective 4: Disseminate variety trial data and project results to prospective growers and potential markets.

Objective 5: Obtain funding for two more years of replicated variety trials, identifying and providing farmers, processors and consumers with seed for the most desirable sorghum accession.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Patrick Carr
  • Dr. Burton Johnson
  • Dr. Mathias Kolding
  • Aaron and Melissa Mahin
  • David Podioll
  • Ron Schlecht
  • Bob Sinner
  • Owen and Michelle Trangsrud
  • Steve Zwinger

Research

Materials and methods:

In 2015, 106 lines of white grained sorghum, some directly from Mat Kolding of Oregon State University and some that he had sent to the National Plant Germplasm System for maintenance and evaluation, were evaluated in a screen conducted near Prosper, ND (Objective 1). One additional line once grown experimentally in North Dakota and maintained by the NPGS (IS805) was also included. Professor Burton Johnson established and maintained the unreplicated screen that consisted of single rows of up to 82 plants. He collected the basic agronomic data (plant stand, number of heads, seed yield per head, etc.), bagged heads for pure seed increase (sorghum is largely a self pollinated crop), and held a field day with NPSAS Farm Breeding Club in September of 2015. At the field day (Objective 3) three NPSAS members joined Dr. Johnson and evaluated each line for head type (compact to loose on a scale of 1-5) and harvestability (likely ease of combine harvest on a scale of 1-5).

The data from 2015 were loaded into a spreadsheet and then shared with project team members at the NPSAS Farm Breeding Club Winter Meeting held in Medina, ND on 24 February 2016 (Objective 4). On April 6, 2016, FBC members met with representatives from SB & B, a grain trading company, and Burton Johnson at NDSU in Fargo to consider the results of the screen and chose which sorghum lines to move forward for the multi-location variety trial (Objective 2). Twenty-one of Mat Kolding’s lines were chosen based on apparent yield potential and grain quality. A mixture of lines formed by David Podoll and grown by Owen Trangsrud was chosen as a check and for border rows. Blue River Hybrids also provided two early hybrids, one very early hybrid with tan colored grain (57B6) and their earliest white variety (59CT4), to be used as experimental checks.

Later in May Burton sent out seeds to Steve Zwinger at the Carrington Research Extension Center and to Glenn Martin at the Dickinson Research Extension Center. These were planted in replicate in two row plots on organically managed land [65,000 plants per acre of PLS]. Seeds were also sent to Aaron Mahin and Owen Trangsrud  for single replicate evaluations on collaborating farms. These plots were planted with an Almaco push planter. In all cases weed control was performed with mechanical cultivation of various sorts.

Sorghum evaluation plots near Fargo-Moorhead in 2016. Unreplicated plots at a daughter site near Enderlin, ND in 2016.

Sorghum flowering in replicated plots in Dickinson, ND in 2016.

Organic sorghum variety trial at NDSU's Carrington Research Extension Center in 2016.

In September, 2016 Steve Zwinger led an FBC field day (Objective 4) at Carrington to rate the plots once more. Our university partners harvested and measured the grain to determine yields. Aaron Mahin’s plots were damaged after cattle went over a fence and the grain lost. Owen Trangsrud threshed his harvested grain in early 2017 using one of the FBC head threshers. Data were then shared with FBC in early 2017 (Objective 4), and ANOVA of data from each replicated variety trial was used to evaluate the yield and other critical characteristics at each location.

Steve Zwinger led participatory evaluations of sorghum plots in 2016.
Research results and discussion:

Preliminary results of the three university trials were presented to FBC members in March, 2017 (Objective 4). Yields varied considerably, but significant differences were only observed in Dickinson and Carrington (Table 1). Differences in height were only significant at Carrington, where plants grew much taller than the other locations (Table 2). Most of the experimental lines proved to be significantly earlier to flower than the commercial checks, although differences were not significant at Fargo (Table 3). The commercial checks also usually had low test-weights, although in Fargo one of them was at the top of the list (Table 4). Test weights only met the desirable level of 56 or more lbs/bu at Fargo for only four of the varieties.

These results suggest that further work could be useful for clearly differentiating line performance and seeing whether commercially acceptable sorghum can be regularly grown in North Dakota. Results with one line, PI 574585, highlight what we are hoping to do with this variety screen and trial. This Mat Kolding line ranked in the middle to high for yield at each location (Table 1), it was also one of the shorter lines (Table 2), usually earlier than the check hybrids (Table 3), and usually had high test-weights (Table 4). This is very promising. We will consider these and other observations as we decide which of the lines to increase for further evaluations, commercial production, or breeding. We will use the results from the screen and the variety trial as the basis for seeking further funding for ongoing development of sorghum for the northern plains (Objective 5).

Table 1. Yield of experimental sorghum lines and checks at four organically managed locations in 2016. The Blue River Hybrid checks were 57B6 and 59CT4. The FBC Mix was a third check based on a mixture of several of these lines grown out previously. There were significant differences among varieties at Dickinson and Carrington. Varieties not significantly different from the highest yielder are highlighted in yellow. Those not significantly different from the second highest yielder are highlighted in red. There were no significant differences at Fargo and with only one replicate at Enderlin an analysis of variance was not possible.

Dickinson

   

Carrington

   

Enderlin

   

Fargo

 

Name

bu/A

 

Name

bu/A

 

Name

bu/A

 

Name

bu/A

BR 57b6

60.4

 

PI 574554

61.7

 

PI 574573

87.6

 

BR 57b6

61.0

PI 574585

49.9

 

PI 574595

61.0

 

Line 68

69.9

 

Line 66

55.3

Line 34

47.8

 

PI 574585

59.4

 

Line 72

69.4

 

PI 574585

42.1

PI 574595

47.2

 

Line 72

59.1

 

Line 70

69.2

 

Line 6

41.8

PI 574568

46.9

 

PI 574568

58.4

 

Line 17

68.9

 

Line 10

40.7

Line 66

46.4

 

Line 17

58.4

 

FBC Mix

66.5

 

Line 70

39.7

Line 10

46.4

 

Line 65

56.3

 

Line 65

65.6

 

Line 74

36.6

BR 59ct4

45.8

 

PI 574561

55.2

 

PI 574561

65.3

 

BR 59ct4

36.1

PI 574554

44.9

 

Line 34

54.7

 

Line 66

64.6

 

Line 22

32.7

Line 17

44.8

 

Line 22

54.2

 

PI 574595

63.4

 

Line 25

31.4

Line 14

43.4

 

Line 6

54.0

 

PI 574585

61.7

 

PI 574573

28.7

Line 74

43.1

 

FBC Mix

53.9

 

PI 574554

61

 

Line 17

28.6

Line 6

42.9

 

Line 66

52.5

 

Line 25

59.8

 

Line 65

28.0

Line 25

42.8

 

Line 37

50.3

 

Line 67

58.6

 

Line 68

27.9

Line 37

42.7

 

Line 10

50.2

 

Line 74

58.4

 

Line 37

27.8

Line 67

42.1

 

Line 74

49.7

 

Line 34

57.4

 

Line 34

27.3

Line 72

42.0

 

Line 67

47.5

 

Line 10

57.2

 

PI 574561

25.3

PI 574573

41.2

 

Line 14

46.3

 

57B6

56.5

 

PI 574568

25.2

Line 22

40.0

 

Line 25

45.7

 

Line 6

56

 

PI 574595

24.1

FBC Mix

39.5

 

Line 68

43.0

 

Line 37

55.5

 

Line 72

23.2

Line 68

38.2

 

BR 57b6

37.6

 

Line 22

51.7

 

Line 67

20.3

Line 65

37.8

 

PI 574573

34.8

 

PI 574568

46.7

 

Line 14

20.1

Line 70

35.9

 

Line 70

28.7

 

Line 14

40.7

 

PI 574554

17.9

PI 574561

34.0

 

BR 59ct4

25.1

 

59CT4

39.2

 

FBC Mix

17.7

 

Table 2. Height (inches) of experimental sorghum lines and checks at three organically managed locations in 2016. The Blue River Hybrid checks were 57B6 and 59CT4. The FBC Mix was a third check based on a mixture of several of these lines grown out previously. Differences among varieties were not significant except at Carrington. The shortest line there was significantly shorter than all but one other line.

Dickinson

   

Carrington

   

Fargo

 

Name

Height

 

Name

Height

 

Name

Height

BR 59ct4

34.8

 

BR 59ct4

43.2

 

PI 574568

34.0

BR 57b6

35.8

 

PI 574568

43.7

 

PI 574554

36.3

Line 67

37.1

 

BR 57b6

47.2

 

BR 59ct4

37.7

PI 574568

37.4

 

PI 574585

47.6

 

Line 37

38.0

PI 574595

37.9

 

Line 70

48.3

 

FBC Mix

39.3

Line 66

38.2

 

Line 37

49.0

 

Line 67

40.0

Line 37

38.2

 

Line 68

49.1

 

PI 574585

40.0

PI 574585

38.3

 

Line 25

49.6

 

Line 22

40.7

Line 65

38.4

 

FBC Mix

49.7

 

Line 14

41.0

Line 72

38.6

 

Line 66

50.0

 

Line 70

41.7

Line 6

39.4

 

Line 67

50.5

 

PI 574595

42.3

Line 25

39.5

 

Line 10

50.7

 

Line 66

43.0

PI 574554

39.6

 

Line 6

51.0

 

Line 68

43.0

PI 574573

39.6

 

Line 22

51.2

 

Line 25

43.3

Line 17

39.7

 

Line 72

51.3

 

Line 34

43.7

Line 68

39.7

 

PI 574561

51.3

 

BR 57b6

44.0

Line 14

39.9

 

Line 14

51.6

 

PI 574561

44.0

Line 10

40.1

 

PI 574554

51.7

 

Line 72

44.7

FBC Mix

40.3

 

Line 65

52.3

 

Line 10

45.3

Line 70

40.3

 

Line 74

52.5

 

Line 6

45.3

PI 574561

40.7

 

PI 574573

52.6

 

Line 74

45.3

Line 34

40.9

 

PI 574595

52.8

 

PI 574573

45.7

Line 22

40.9

 

Line 17

53.3

 

Line 17

46.0

Line 74

43.4

 

Line 34

54.6

 

Line 65

48.7

 

Table 3. Days from planting to anthesis for experimental sorghum lines and three checks at three organically managed locations in 2016. The Blue River Hybrid checks were 57B6 and 59CT4. The FBC Mix was a third check based on a mixture of several of these lines grown out previously. Differences among varieties were significant only in Dickinson and Carrington. The latest varieties were significantly different than most of the other varieties (yellow), and so were the next latest varieties (red).

Dickinson

   

Carrington

   

Fargo

 

Name

Days

 

Name

Days

 

Name

Days

Line 10

58.0

 

Line 17

60.0

 

Line 17

58.0

Line 34

58.3

 

Line 22

61.0

 

Line 66

58.0

Line 37

58.3

 

Line 34

61.0

 

Line 25

59.0

Line 17

58.7

 

PI 574585

61.0

 

Line 67

59.0

Line 6

58.7

 

Line 10

61.3

 

Line 10

59.3

Line 14

58.7

 

Line 14

61.3

 

Line 37

59.3

PI 574595

59.0

 

Line 6

61.7

 

Line 6

59.3

Line 22

59.0

 

Line 74

61.7

 

Line 74

59.3

FBC Mix

59.0

 

Line 66

62.0

 

Line 65

60.0

Line 72

59.0

 

Line 67

62.0

 

Line 34

60.3

PI 574585

59.3

 

Line 72

62.0

 

Line 68

60.3

PI 574561

59.3

 

PI 574561

62.0

 

Line 72

60.7

Line 74

59.3

 

FBC Mix

62.3

 

PI 574561

61.0

Line 25

59.3

 

Line 25

62.7

 

Line 14

61.3

Line 66

59.3

 

Line 65

63.0

 

Line 22

61.3

Line 67

59.3

 

Line 68

63.0

 

Line 70

61.3

PI 574573

59.7

 

Line 37

63.3

 

PI 574585

62.0

Line 68

59.7

 

PI 574554

63.3

 

BR 57b6

62.0

Line 70

59.7

 

PI 574568

63.3

 

FBC Mix

62.7

PI 574554

60.0

 

PI 574595

63.7

 

PI 574595

64.0

PI 574568

60.7

 

Line 70

65.0

 

PI 574573

64.3

Line 65

60.7

 

PI 574573

68.3

 

PI 574554

64.3

BR 57b6

64.0

 

BR 57b6

68.7

 

PI 574568

66.3

BR 59ct4

65.3

 

BR 59ct4

72.0

 

BR 59ct4

67.3

 

Table 4. Test weight (lbs/bu) of experimental sorghum lines and three checks grown at three organically managed locations in 2016. The Blue River Hybrid checks were 57B6 and 59CT4. The FBC Mix was a third check based on a mixture of several of these lines grown out previously. There were significant differences observed at all three sites. Test weights of 56 lb/bu are desirable in the marketplace.

Dickinson

   

Carrington

   

Fargo

 

Name

Test Wt

 

Name

Test Wt

 

Name

Test Wt

BR 59ct4

47.8

 

BR 57b6

46.6

 

BR 59ct4

53.2

BR 57b6

49.5

 

BR 59ct4

47.0

 

Line 14

53.6

Line 65

52.2

 

Line 65

51.2

 

Line 65

53.9

Line 68

52.7

 

Line 70

51.7

 

Line 72

54.0

Line 67

52.8

 

Line 14

51.9

 

Line 67

54.2

Line 70

52.8

 

Line 67

51.9

 

Line 37

54.5

Line 66

53.0

 

Line 66

52.2

 

PI 574568

54.7

Line 72

53.0

 

Line 68

52.3

 

FBC Mix

55.0

Line 10

53.0

 

Line 72

52.3

 

Line 68

55.0

Line 14

53.2

 

FBC Mix

52.6

 

Line 70

55.0

FBC Mix

53.3

 

Line 74

52.6

 

Line 6

55.1

Line 6

53.5

 

PI 574573

52.6

 

Line 34

55.2

Line 17

53.7

 

Line 10

52.7

 

Line 66

55.3

Line 22

53.8

 

Line 37

53.1

 

Line 10

55.4

Line 34

54.2

 

Line 6

53.1

 

Line 17

55.5

Line 74

54.2

 

Line 34

53.4

 

Line 25

55.5

Line 37

54.5

 

Line 25

53.6

 

PI 574554

55.5

PI 574554

54.5

 

PI 574595

53.6

 

Line 22

55.6

PI 574561

54.5

 

Line 17

53.7

 

Line 74

55.7

PI 574585

54.8

 

Line 22

53.7

 

PI 574573

55.9

Line 25

55.0

 

PI 574561

54.0

 

PI 574561

56.2

PI 574568

55.3

 

PI 574554

54.1

 

BR 57b6

56.5

PI 574573

55.5

 

PI 574568

55.1

 

PI 574595

57.0

PI 574595

55.8

 

PI 574585

55.5

 

PI 574585

57.2

 

 

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Updates about this project were published in the NPSAS Germinator newsletter in June, 2015, December, 2015, March, 2016, June, 2016, September, 2016, December, 2016, and March, 2017. They were also posted to the Farm Breeding Club Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Farm-Breeding-Club-165221056860513/) that has 918 likes.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The variety screen carried out in 2015 provided an opportunity to increase some seeds and for farmers, researchers, and grain marketers to discuss sorghum growing and marketing. The available seeds and data from our variety screen and trial now allow us to turn towards increasing seeds that have the greatest potential for high yields of valuable white grain, although further variety trials and other evaluations need to be conducted. This provides us a firm platform for obtaining further funding for such promising work.

Economic Analysis

No economic analyses were performed.

Farmer Adoption

Some of our FBC members are very interested in the potential of white-grained sorghum, but there will be several years of seed increase needed before farmers can adopt any of these lines for production.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

The potential of sorghum much further north than it has traditionally been grown is very big with these new, early, cold tolerant lines. More variety evaluations and breeding are needed, as well as basic agronomy research to help incorporate sorghum into organic and other sustainable cropping systems in this region where it is a new crop.

Information Products

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  • Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.