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Kansas and Madagascar Unite in Sorghum Farming Innovation
Kansas Ag Connection - 12/07/2023

Kansas State University is embarking on an international agricultural collaboration, sharing key sorghum-growing strategies with farmers in Madagascar, backed by a $2.5 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development. This partnership arises as both Kansas and Madagascar farmers face challenges due to water scarcity and climate change.

Sorghum, a drought-resistant grain native to Africa, has been a staple crop in Kansas due to its resilience. Kansas farmer Boyd Funk has seen the benefits of sorghum in dryland areas over his 45 years of farming. In contrast, Madagascar farmers, who traditionally grew sorghum, shifted to crops like corn but are now facing reliability issues due to changing climate conditions, leading to food insecurity.

The grant facilitates Kansas State University in sharing research on climate-tolerant sorghum varieties and innovative farming methods, like seedball technology, with Madagascan farmers. This collaboration also includes knowledge exchange on disease-resistant sorghum varieties and strategies for coping with common agricultural pests.

This international effort is not just a one-way street. Collaborations with African farmers have previously aided Kansas, particularly in dealing with the sugarcane aphids. The shared research from Ethiopia provided Kansas with sorghum varieties resistant to these pests.

The similarities in climate between western Kansas and many arid regions worldwide, including Madagascar, make this partnership particularly relevant. Kansas, known for its wheat and sorghum production, is reevaluating its agricultural practices in light of recent extreme weather conditions and groundwater conservation concerns.

The project exemplifies the global significance of agricultural research and knowledge sharing. It highlights the adaptability of crops like sorghum in varying climates and the importance of international cooperation in addressing the challenges posed by climate change in agriculture.

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