Price said Heiskell had to search high and low for grain sorghum locally for an ethanol plant to make a trial run with. “We found one field of grain near Bakersfield.”

However, grain sorghum use for ethanol production is growing in the U.S., according to John Fulcher, director of business development for Chromatin. Approximately one-third of the U.S. sorghum crop is now used for ethanol production.

He says 14 of the nation’s ethanol plants use grain sorghum as a feedstock. Most of these are in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Nebraska, Colorado and South Dakota. However, 95 percent of U.S. ethanol is still made from corn. The National Corn Growers Association estimates that 39 percent of the U.S. corn crop is used in ethanol production.

Grain sorghum, or milo, is discounted in California against corn because it is not as palatable as corn for livestock and dairy feed. Corn is easier to steam and roll to make it more digestible for livestock.

“You cannot really flake milo very effectively, and that is why there is a steep discount. It would be better to run it through an ethanol plant and utilize it as feed as distillers grain to make it viable for livestock feed,” said Price.

The promoters of a new grain sorghum age for California now see the state as “sweet spot” for grain sorghum because of the growing shortage of available irrigation water and the need for a crop to maximize what is available. Increasing problems with saline soils and the ethanol plant demand are two more reasons why organizers believe sorghum can make a comeback. It could be a single crop or a double crop behind wheat.

Meeting organizers said wheat growers in Kansas and Oklahoma can get 3 tons of grain sorghum per acre behind wheat. The growing season there is considerably shorter than in California, presumable offering greater yield potential here. It can also be a good rotation crop after cotton or vegetables.