Sorghum discussed as low-water alternative crop for Nevada at virtual workshop

University presents information on growing sorghum as a commercial crop in Nevada

A low energy spray application irrigation system in Arco, Idaho is similar to one installed in Diamond Valley in Eureka County. The goal is to reduce water and energy needed to irrigate alfalfa and Timothy hay crops.

A low energy spray application irrigation system in Arco, Idaho is similar to one installed in Diamond Valley in Eureka County. The goal is to reduce water and energy needed to irrigate alfalfa and Timothy hay crops.

 With Nevada’s harsh weather and low precipitation, producers are considering crop and irrigation options that use less water than traditional crops such as alfalfa, that maintain a high yield and profitability.

Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno have been exploring sorghum as an alternative crop for Nevada, and are offering a free virtual workshop on their findings.The workshop, called “Sorghum for Nevada: Basics and Research Updates,” will be from 9 a.m. to noon, March 12. Researchers in the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources will give updates on ongoing sorghum research and present practical growing information.

“Water is becoming less available for crop production,” Maninder Walia, assistant professor and field crop specialist with the College’s Extension unit, said. “Producers in Nevada are looking for opportunities to grow crops that require less water, and sorghum is such a crop.”

In addition to a presentation by Walia on the basics of growing sorghum, the workshop will include presentations by Assistant Professor Melinda Yerka, Assistant Professor Alejandro Andrade-Rodriguez and Associate Professor Robert Washington-Allen, all with the College’s Experiment Station unit.

Specific topics include the following:
  • Basics of sorghum production, presented by Walia.
  • Update on new varieties of sorghum being bred for Nevada, presented by Yerka.
  • Irrigation management of grain sorghum under full and deficit irrigation, presented by Andrade-Rodriguez. He will discuss how to manage sorghum during normal conditions when water is available, and during drought conditions when water is limited.
  • New technologies for aboveground and belowground measurements of new varieties of crops, presented by Washington-Allen. He will discuss how technology is being used to measure the effects of different irrigation methods on traits of different sorghum varieties, including root depth, plant height and biomass. He will also discuss technology being used to measure how four different sorghum varieties respond to high levels of salt in the soil.

Walia works with both researchers and local producers to test new crop varieties to enhance agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability by adopting strategies such as soil amendments, reduced or no-tillage, alternate cropping systems, cover crops, and nutrient management strategies to improve crop and soil quality.

Yerka has been studying sorghum and other alternative crops since before she joined the College in 2017. Her sorghum breeding program is developing varieties specifically tailored for commercial production in northern Nevada and California.

Andrade-Rodriguez’s research focuses on irrigation management practices specific to Nevada. Recently, he has been working with Walia, Yerka and Washington-Allen to identify how sorghum responds to different nitrogen and irrigation treatments.

Washington-Allen studies how to apply innovative technology, including drones, laser scanning, ground-penetrating radar, virtual and augmented reality tools, geographic information systems, and remote sensing, to improve crop sustainability, especially in Nevada’s climate.

Preregister for the workshop online by March 10 at https://unr.zoom.us/j/82214582988?pwd=Um82d0N2REhHVVZRcFNJdEZjdTE5Zz09. For information, email Walia at waliam@unr.edu. For more information on crop studies being conducted by researchers in the College, visit the Experiment Station website.

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