The 2023 Sorghum in the 21st Century Global Sorghum Conference brought together more than 400 members of the global sorghum community in Montpellier, France, June 5-9. Delegates represented nearly 150 different organizations, including 82 delegates representing members of the global SMIL community.
The conference focused on resiliency and sustainability in the face of climate change and encompassed the entire sorghum value chain. Key challenges for sorghum around the globe were highlighted, and delegates were able to strengthen current partnerships, discover unique collaborations and explore cutting-edge advances in sorghum research.
The five-day-long conference showcased the latest in current and developing sorghum science and highlighted sorghum's role as a key solution for numerous global challenges, including climate change impacts, evolving nutritional needs and a shift in market demands for both human food and livestock feed.
“The global conference is of prime importance for people involved in the project on sorghum to learn, share and to know each other,” said Ahmadou Issaka, INRAN, Niger.
Issaka said building connections with researchers in other countries expands the pool of ideas and will lead to better solutions to the challenges of the sorghum value chain.
Joseph Pascal Sene, ISRA, Senegal, said the conference was an opportunity to exchange knowledge with scientists worldwide and to get updated knowledge on all the fields of study on sorghum.
“Sorghum is the plant of the future in the face of climate change, taking into consideration all its potential,” Sene said.
One of the highlights of the conference was the announcement of the creation of the Global Collaboration on Sorghum and Millet to continue the work of SMIL into the future. The collaboration will be led by Kansas State University, which has hosted SMIL for the past 10 years.
“Kansas State has a long legacy in international ag,” said Nathanael Bascom, director of engagement and leadership for GCSM. “We felt this global conference was a great way to demonstrate to the globe that we're going to be a leader in sorghum, we're going be a leader in millet, we're going be a leader, we hope, in other crops because that leadership is required to continue this global collaboration.”
This desire to strengthen collaboration fueled SMIL’s efforts to bring teams together at the global conference to network with other researchers and leaders from across the value chain.
“Research on sorghum is dynamic. This opportunity allows early scientists like me to become more knowledgeable, improve communication skills and explore future opportunities,” said Djidjoho Arsène Thierry Hodehou, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar/CERAAS, Benin/Senegal.
Hodehou said meeting the scientist who is an expert on an algorithm used for the analysis of his research was a highlight of the event.
“I have his insightful comments on my poster, and we made contact,” Hodehou said. “The conference allowed me to evaluate the place of my topic thesis within the global research on sorghum. I'm on my way.”
SMIL also sponsored delegates from Madagascar, where GCSM is expanding the global collaboration to assist farmers in adapting to climate change utilizing research and technologies developed in the Sahelian region of Africa over the past 10 years.
“I really appreciate the SMIL program because it opened our doors to run with other African countries and other more advanced countries,” said Allain Ranivomanana with FOFIFA, the National Agricultural Research Institution in Madagascar.
“Our country is one of the most vulnerable to the negative impact of current climate change, so we would like the Malagasy State to turn to the development of the sorghum/millet sector, a drought-resilient and nutritious crop for food safety,” Ranivomanana said.