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June 7, 2023

Lidea a leader in sorghum

For nearly 15 years, Lidea has been committed to sorghum research and development. With its dedicated research programme, its determination to offer solutions adapted to the new climate needs and the enthusiasm of a passionate team, Lidea is recognised as an expert in the field.
There is still a long way to go to promote this ancient cereal. But by creating new industrial outlets, highlighting the nutritional values of this crop for both feed and food, and training farmers, everything is in place to change the growing habits of producers and ensure optimal soil rotation.

In 2022, around 40 million hectares of cultivated land worldwide were dedicated to sorghum and this level is expected to remain stable. This puts sorghum in 5th place in the cereals category, with over 50% of the arable land in Africa. With an annual production of nearly 60 million tonnes, sorghum is used globally for food, feed and bioenergy. In Europe, the majority of production is used in animal feed, with a few niche markets in human food and the development of bio-ethanol production.
According to indicators from Sorghum-ID (an organisation aiming to unite European sorghum stakeholders), grain sorghum is grown on 183,000 hectares in Europe and the area under cultivation remains stable. France is the only exception, with a 17% drop in cultivated area, while Hungary is the strongest performer, with an increase of 37%.
Fodder sorghum has grown by 22%, to 114,500 hectares. The market is growing year on year. In France, there was a 20% positive differential in 2022 compared to the previous year. This difference rose to 53% in Hungary. In Europe, half a million hectares are devoted to sorghum cultivation, with around 300 Kha devoted to grain and 200 Kha to forage.
Europe still accounts for only a small proportion of the world's sorghum acreage, but this figure is set to rise in response to the worsening climate.

Sorghum has many and varied outlets. Sorghum fodder is used for silage production (dairy farms, beef cattle, etc.) and bioenergies such as biogas for methanisation and electricity production. One hectare of biomass sorghum can produce around 7,000m3 of biogas, and 1 tonne of grain sorghum can produce 290 to 410 litres of ethanol, so sorghum has a place in many of today's energy projects to reduce our dependence on oil. Fibre-rich biomass sorghum is also used in the manufacture of biomaterials.
Processors recognise the many qualities of sorghum grain. With high value in terms of protein, starch, energy content, amino acids and complex fatty acids that improve the quality of the meat produced, it is prized for animal feed (livestock, pork, fish farming, pet food and poultry) as well as for human food. Rich in iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B9 and known for its antioxidant qualities, it is used to produce pasta, porridge, flakes, spirits, vegetable milk, biscuits and puffed sorghum.

In Africa, sorghum seeds are commonly eaten in the form of flour or semolina. They  are also used to make traditional gluten-free beers. Nearly 60% of the continent's sorghum production is used for human consumption.

Sorghum is highly adaptable to climate change, with low input and water requirements (over 80% of agricultural land has no irrigation). It therefore tolerates drought and high temperatures well in medium to deep soil without irrigation. By 2023, the trend in Europe and the rest of the world should be for an increase in both grain and fodder acreage.

As an innovative seed company that listens to its ecosystem, Lidea positioned itself very early as an expert, and even an influencer, in the dynamics and development of sorghum. Lidea's presence at the International Sorghum Congress 2023 with a stand dedicated to the Lidea Sorghum lab is proof, if any were needed, of its commitment and creativity in relation to this crop, which remains under-cultivated throughout the world.

Lidea has long supported the development of this cereal by participating in the 1st European research programme, Eurosorgho, created in 2009. This constant genetic improvement enables Lidea to offer a highly diversified range, which is constantly being renewed, with excellent grain and forage performance. Nearly 20% of the sorghum sown in Europe is from Lidea varieties.

Today, the development of sorghum in Europe requires an official commodity price to improve visibility for storage organisations, traders, processors and farmers. In 2014, Lidea embarked on a  crusade to improve knowledge of the use of sorghum in animal feed, human food and bio energy among processors, by approaching them directly to encourage them to test sorghum as a raw material of excellence, but also by training farmers in good agricultural practices, while investing in research.

Although sorghum originated in Africa, climate change has meant that local farmers have also had to rethink their practices. A Lidea team has been tasked with helping them to grow sorghum, offering them poor tannin varieties with adapted early genetics and dedicated training in production and cultivation practices. Further support has been given to the use of early genetics to optimise production for the needs of the region, i.e. porridge, flour and
other human food products.

For example, Lidea trains African farmers to respect technical itineraries, including sowing density. The current practice in Africa is to sow in stacks of 3 to 5 seeds, due to the low germination capacity of common varieties. With the Lidea varieties on offer, farmers can sow in rows with just one seed per hole for better distribution and improved productivity.

The results of trials carried out since 2019 in West Africa show that yields can easily be quadrupled with our genetics compared to local varieties, over cycles that are 30 to 40 days shorter.
With a very short cycle, Lidea's early genetics help to reduce the consequences of the climate events that have become increasingly frequent in Africa in recent years and which are conducive to the development of some parasites such as Striga.
Large-scale trials on our grain and forage portfolio are currently being rolled out to verify suitability for different climate conditions, and to put in place appropriate recommendations.