A little known segment of the North Carolina Biotech Center is the Specialty Crops Division. Norris Tolson, President and CEO of the NC Biotech Center talks about one of the center’s recent successes:
“The hog industry guys came to us about three years ago desperately needing more grain in NC because they are importing grain from the Midwest, Argentina and Brazil and it’s a high cost in the hog rations. They needed a program that would encourage farmers to grow more grain in NC. In addition, they wanted it to be a regional program not just a NC program.
So we brought together SC, NC and VA researchers to see how we could get our farmers to grow more grain here. The folks in the Specialty Crops Center are bringing together researcher on grain sorghum, wheat, tretachala, and corn. We are trying to figure out how we can get a rotation going in NC so we can do more double cropping. For example, come in with wheat and double crop behind with grain sorghum. Or you can grow corn behind wheat.
We are trying to figure out how we can get another 100 million bushels of grain produced in NC so that the hog guys don’t have to import it.
We had a very good year in 2012; we had tremendous grain sorghum yields. We went from almost none to about 63,000 acres in NC. We think that number will grow to about 80-100,000 acres. When you get that behind an earlier maturing variety of wheat, then you have the opportunity to have a good double crop situation where you make money on both ends of the double crop.
Historically we have been producing 85-90 million bushels of grain. The hog and poultry industry need about 300 million bushels. The objective is how do we get from 80 million to 180 million. And they want to do it quick, they needed results in three years. We are pretty close to getting there. We might not hit the 180 million bushels but we will get close. Its all about getting farmers to understand they can double crop and make money.”
President & CEO of the North Carolina Biotech Center, Norris Tolson