Funding to make sorghum more palatable for poultry diets

30-09-2022 | |
Photo: Canva
Photo: Canva

Sorghum is a staple cereal grain crop that provides many health benefits for livestock, pets and humans.

But there is an issue about specific compounds found in the sorghum varieties, such as tannins and polyphenols, which while offering health benefits for humans can also produce negative effects for poultry and the pet sector.

No-go sorghum varieties for poultry

Some varieties of sorghum, with high tannin levels are a real no-go for the poultry diet but low tanning sorghum are a good substitute in the diet for wheat and maize. Researchers have suggested that use of sorghum grain tannin up to 1% level can be recommended in poultry diets but levels of 2-3% should be avoided unless treated for alleviation or deactivation of tannins.

Sorghum is a productive crop that has the genetic capabilities to be a nutritional powerhouse

Funding for new research

Now, the US-based Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is providing nearly $850,000 in a Seed Solutions grant to Clemson University to study sorghum plant properties that enhance beneficial compounds in commercial sorghum, while preserving the crop’s dual use as animal feed. Matching funds were provided by the university and Carolina Seeds Systems.

Commenting on the award, Dr Jeffrey Rosichan, FFAR Crops of the Future Collaborative director, said the research was particularly important as sorghum is a climate resilient crop that could boost crop diversity to strengthen the global food supply. Increased sorghum consumption would also boost US trade exports.

Nutritional powerhouse

“Sorghum is a productive crop that has the genetic capabilities to be a nutritional powerhouse. It is resilient to climate change and can be grown with fewer inputs, saving farmers money. By investigating the sources of sorghum’s health benefits, this research will unlock the crop’s full potential.”

Plant breeder Dr Richard Boyles, from Clemson University, said his team of researchers would assess specific substances present in the grain that have beneficial health properties for people and do not cause negative outcomes for animals.

Once identified, the researchers will use non-GMO breeding methods to develop new sorghum hybrids that have these value-added properties. The final step will be to measure impacts of the enhanced grain sorghum hybrids have on poultry growth, as well as their capability to reduce harmful diseases within the poultry gut.”

Sustainable US grain market

Boyles, assistant professor of plant breeding and genetics, added: “Spanning across plant breeding and genetics to animal sciences, this interdisciplinary project will use sound science and product development to create a more sustainable and prosperous US grain and protein market.

“Once we fully understand what and how plant-based metabolites are conferring health benefits, we can optimise their concentrations and availability through molecular breeding. This objective will run in unison with ongoing efforts to increase sorghum grain yield and stress resilience,” he added.

Boyles stressed the research would also help establish sorghum as an important tool in meeting the demand for nutritious, affordable as well as sustainable food and feed.

Tony McDougal Freelance Journalist