Earlier this week, the Pee Dee Research & Education Center in Florence, SC hosted their all crops field day, and Bruce Fortnum, Director of the Center explains that while an all crops day, they had two primary areas to focus on:

“We are focusing on flax and sorghum. Flax is an alternate fiber that can be used in lieu of cotton or blended with cotton. We have a manufacturer in Kings… that is interested in purchasing flax produced in the Carolinas.”

Growing flax in the Carolinas leaves several different options for double-cropping according to Fortnum:

“They would come off in the middle of May so it’s a little sooner than a wheat crop. Typically famers will plant wheat then harvest it and come back in with a soybean crop. Two weeks could give you a little more opportunity to perhaps follow it with a sorghum product.”

The second crop that was the focus of this year’s field day was grain sorghum:

“We are focusing on grain sorghum, as an alternate to corn for animal production in the Carolinas. With the drought in the Midwest, there are concerns that there is sufficient grain to support the animal industry. Grain sorghum is a crop that grows on soils that are not as fertile as the ones we farm corn in, but still can produce good quality grain in some of our more marginal soils. It is also resistant to drought stress, more so than corn.”

Recently Clemson University proposed – and the S.C. General Assembly endorsed – establishing an Advanced Plant Technology program at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence. This research would provide a bridge to 21st century agriculture using traditional plant breeding and molecular genetics to develop new crops and crop-based products. Fortnum explains that the $4 million from the General Assembly will bring the Pee Dee Research & Education Center into the 21st century:

“That will take facilities that were designed in the 70s and bring them in to this century. That would enable us to use technology that is current today. There is a lot of opportunity to improve germ plasma using molecular sciences and increasing disease and insect resistance and drought tolerance. There is an extensive project looking at aquaporin genes that regulate water movement over membranes, which translates to moisture stress. The idea would be for us to produce crops that could tolerate drought stress in the middle of the season.”

Bruce Fortnum, Director of the Pee Dee Research & Education Center near Florence, South Carolina. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.