Multiple targets sorghum in dairy farming

Sorghum is a new crop for the northern regions that resembles maize in terms of growth and cultivation and is also a C4 crop with a high CO2 absorption. Sorghum as the third forage crop on a dairy farm can broaden the rotation with maize and possibly prevent the disadvantages of continuous maize cultivation. This project investigates the potential of sorghum in dairy farming with the aim of substantially reducing the continuous cultivation of maize.

The continuous cultivation of maize has a number of drawbacks, such as nitrate leaching on the dry sandy soils (water quality). In addition, irrigation will become more difficult in the future (water will become scarcer), while at the same time soil compaction will become an increasing problem due to more extreme showers. Compared to corn, sorghum cultivation is more drought resistant and may have higher nitrogen efficiency. Incidentally, due to the same climate change, the prospect of a more northern cultivation of sorghum is also increasing! As an alternative to and /or in rotation with maize, sorghum contributes to the strengthening of the resistance to pests and diseases (especially soil borne diseases and also the maize root drill and maize stem borer) and can remove soil compaction with a deeper rooting.

Nutritional value and breed comparisons

Breeding has broken through the cold sensitivity of the crop, making large-scale use of sorghum - for a combination of biomass and starch - possible in the Netherlands (and Belgium). In this project, adaptation to cultivation conditions is encouraged. By variety comparison, sorghum varieties are further developed and compared with maize varieties. The potency and acceptance of sorghum as a third crop also depends on the environmental benefits, cultivation aspects, nutritional value and yields. To this end, the environmental benefits are identified through fertilization and nutrient efficiency tests. Research is also being conducted into how the crop can best be cultivated (sowing method, fertilization, crop protection method, harvest, preservation). Finally, digestion and uptake tests take place to get a better picture of the feed evaluation.

Expected results

  • The research provides an accessible guide for practice, but also for policy development (including economic underpinning).
  • In view of the innovative character, such as the breakthrough of the cold sensitivity of the crop, scientific publications are also being delivered.
  • This provides additional knowledge by sharing cooperation and knowledge with the Belgian research institute ILVO.