|SORGHUM CROPS THRIVE DESPITE THE DROUGHT.
The Osgood File. Sponsored in part by AJC. This is Charles Osgood.
Drought conditions are now extreme for about a quarter of the lower 48 states.
And some farmers are thinking about switching over from corn, which needs a lot of water - to sorghum, which doesn't need so much.
Sorghum is a grain that's used primarily for livestock feed - and as an alternative to corn in ethanol.
Our CBS News colleague Michelle Miller took a walk with farmer Donald Bloss and his son on their farm in Pawnee City, Nebraska - where they grow both corn and sorghum.
The difference is pretty dramatic.
SOT - Mark Bloss, Donald Bloss' son - with Michelle Miller, CBS News Correspondent
"(Miller:) You look at your corn, and it's all dry and dead - and you move into here, and it's green and lush! (Bloss:) And it's not done yet, either - these seeds are still pretty damp, and they've got a ways to go before they'll turn red and ready to harvest." (:12)
More after this from David Harris of AJC...
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Nebraska farmer Donald Bloss still grows corn - or tries to - but some of his neighbors have given up on it altogether.
SOT - Donald Bloss
"A lot of us in this area quit raising corn. I needed the income, and sorghum was a pretty solid income base." (:07)
Corn is theoretically better - and it has been, normally.
But as Michelle Miller learned, "normal" has been anything but the norm.
VO - Michelle Miller
"In normal weather conditions, corn can out produce sorghum by nearly 50 percent. But sorghum only needs a third of the water it takes to grow corn. Its roots run deeper and its leaves help it retain moisture longer." (:14)
That's been the Blosses' experience with it for 45 years now.
SOT - Donald Bloss, with Michelle Miller
"(Miller:) Rain or shine or drought - you'll get a crop. (Bloss:) It's more dependable, yes - it's pretty forgiving." (:05)
At the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Professor Ismail Dweitkat has been working on hybrids to improve sorghum's harvest potential.
Michelle Miller asked him...
SOT - Prof. Ismail Dweitkat of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln - with Michelle Miller
"(Miller:) Could it surpass corn as a crop? (Dweitkat:) Yes - oh yes, it can. Sorghum is more efficient in terms of utilizing the sun, the temperature and the water to produce more grain per unit compared to corn." (:12)
VO - Michelle Miller
"Back on the farm, the Blosses expect to harvest 100 percent of their sorghum crop." (:06)
The Osgood File. This is Charles Osgood on the CBS Radio Network.