For those looking for an opportunity to put grain sorghum into their rotation or get more value out of their current crop, there’s good news finally.

National Sorghum Producers, industry partners and staff say that after 4 years of work, the EPA released a draft renewable fuel standard pathway allowing for production of biodiesel using sorghum oil. NSP says it’s “significant positive news” for sorghum growers and ethanol plants, as it provides more opportunities and better returns for those producing ethanol from sorghum.

The pathway will mean ethanol plants are able to pay more for sorghum, but the immediate, direct impacts are difficult to quantify, NS says, as basis appreciation due to Chinese demand is occurring rapidly and sorghum ethanol plants still face a disadvantage selling fuel in California, the organization notes.

Several lawmakers noted in a March letter to the EPA that grain sorghum ethanol production facilities in the region have installed the technology to separate sorghum oil and distiller’s grains. But because sorghum oil isn’t yet approved to produce biofuels, it’s at a 2-cent-per-pound disadvantage when compared to corn oil.

As growers continue to face decade-low grain prices, NSP says federal policies are needed to encourage new markets for grain and related products.

I think this development with sorghum is not only good news for no-tillers, but it also puts some pressure on researchers and industry representatives to come up with more answers for controlling sugarcane aphids. The insect has continued to spread north from Texas into Oklahoma and Kansas, reducing yields and even destroying some crops. In some cases farmers are spending $15-20 an acre to treat crops for the insects, with multiple treatments sometimes needed.

No-tillers should be able to raise grain sorghum more profitably than their conventional neighbors due to increased moisture savings and less fuel and labor involved. But the financial opportunities offered by these new markets might be dulled quite a bit if farmers can’t raise grain sorghum economically with fewer pests.