Posted in | News | Ecology | Ecosystems

New $65 Million Project to Quantify the Climate Impact Potential of Sorghum

Nadia Shakoor, PhD, principal investigator and senior research scientist at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is part of the nation-wide team that will work to quantify the climate impact potential of sorghum as part of a five-year, up to $65 million project lead by National Sorghum Producers. Funding for the project was provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities.

Sorghum is an incredible plant that holds great promise as a carbon-sequestering crop. Sorghum's inherent traits such as drought tolerance, make it an ideal crop to positively contribute to both food security resiliency and the mitigation of impacts due to a changing climate. 

Shakoor has significant expertise in sorghum genetics and has developed high-tech sensors to monitor plants' environments and growth in real-time. Additionally, she serves as a principal investigator for the Sorghum Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI), a collaboration between the Danforth Center and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. 

"Sorghum inherently boasts climate-smart attributes and a tremendous opportunity exists to implement further climate-smart production practices and activities on working lands to achieve substantial carbon capture, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to other associated environmental benefits," said Shakoor. 

The target geography of the project includes portions of six states and covers an average of 67 percent of the sorghum industry, or 4.4 million acres annually. The area includes more than 20,000 sorghum farmers and a region vitally important to U.S. agriculture. The U.S. High Plains is the world's leading region for nitrogen use efficiency and mitigation of nitrate leaching, volatilization and runoff. Sorghum is a primary tool in these mitigation efforts and incorporating the crop into rotations in this region can improve the carbon footprint of U.S. agriculture overall.

If sorghum producers can be reached with training on and be supported in implementing climate-smart agriculture practices on a large- scale across key sorghum producing regions, and climate-smart practices measured, monitored, and verified it will significantly help increase market channels for this climate smart commodity. The project will also include a robust diversity and community outreach program that will focus on in-reach and outreach to underserved communities in the project target area with a primary focus of creating opportunities for underserved farmers to participate in climate-smart sorghum production and realize the benefits of ecosystems services markets.

"This is a watershed day for the sorghum industry," NSP CEO Tim Lust said. "Sorghum is and always will be The Resource Conserving Crop™. This award affirms that fact in historic fashion, and we appreciate USDA for the opportunity to realize sorghum's potential as a climate-smart commodity. For the first time, participating farmers will be fully recognized and fully compensated for the good work they do to improve the impact of agriculture on the environment. We couldn't be more excited to come alongside them in this important effort."

Source: https://www.danforthcenter.org/

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