Life cycle: Perennial (or Annual in colder climates)
EFN INTRODUCTION. NEW. Back in 2016 we were given two panicles (seed-heads) of 'M61' perennial sorghum grown by Sarah Kleeger and Andrew Still of Adaptive Seeds in Oregon. They got their initial seed from Tim Peters of the erstwhile Peters Seed & Research. It's said to be the diverse result of a cross between an annual grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor subsp. bicolor) and the weedy perennial Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense). The USDA's National Plant Germplasm System has the same variety listed as 'M6-1'. We planted three beds of it that year at the Deitrichs' farm in Elmer, NJ, and in the late spring of 2017 we noticed a single plant growing back from its roots. It happens that this particular plant had been the most vigorous and productive the year before, producing 16 seed-heads — and in its second year it was more than twice as productive, producing 36! Thankfully Nate saved all of the seed from that plant, because it didn't survive a second winter. (The low temperature during its first winter was 12 degrees Fahrenheit, while the low temperature in its second winter was just 6.) In 2019 we planted a large bed of seeds from this lone surviving plant, and sure enough the following spring we found four survivors! We also shared the seed with volunteers around the country through our collaborative online breeding project (which we encourage you to join as well, at www.ExperimentalFarmNetwork.org).
These seeds are a mix of seeds from the original winter-surviving plant and its descendants. We firmly believe that through rigorous selection and widespread attempts in a range of climates, this population will one day yield a reliably perennial grain sorghum capable of producing lots of food while also sequestering carbon and conserving soil. A reliable perennial grain crop like this could one day help us fight climate change and enable farmers to abandon the genetically-modified corn and soy which have become the dominant field crops across the United States, bringing with them intensive tillage, soil loss, copious use of harmful chemicals, destruction of habitat, and reduction of biodiversity.
Help us bring about a new paradigm in agriculture by breeding new crops like perennial sorghum. Please let us know how these incredibly exciting seeds do for you!