Cultivating Resilient Food Systems Through Ancient Grains

By Nate Blum

Our global food system faces unprecedented threats from climate change. More intense droughts, floods, and heat waves endanger staple crop yields worldwide. However, resilient ancient grains like sorghum and millets can adapt agriculture to these challenges. At Sorghum United, we aim to unlock their benefits to strengthen food security.

Sorghum and millets thrive despite climate fluctuations that would ruin rice, wheat, and other crops. They tolerate scorching temperatures, scarce rainfall, and waterlogging stress. Their genetic diversity gives plant breeders ample traits to develop new climate-hardy varieties. These robust ancient grains are pivotal for transitioning to resilient farming systems.

Additionally, sorghum and millets pack more nutrients than conventional cereals. They deliver ample protein, minerals, and vitamins while being naturally gluten-free. Their cultivation enhances nutrition and health outcomes globally. Moreover, these grains require fewer inputs like fertilizer and water than other field crops, easing resource pressures.

Climate Resilient Agriculture

Our organization assists farmers with climate-resilient seeds, training, and agronomic support to raise productivity. We promote sorghum and millets to food companies, partnering to create new products. Our crop breeding collaborations also further enhance the climate adaptability and performance of these grains.

Reliance on a few vulnerable crops puts our food systems at risk as extreme weather intensifies. Diversifying cereal production with hardy ancient grains like sorghum and millets is a key climate adaptation approach. Their resilience and nutrition make them fundamental to a sustainable food future.

But merely introducing climate-resilient crops is insufficient. We must also reform policies, infrastructure, and incentives that maintain the dominance of conventional cereals like rice, wheat, and maize. Our engagement with governments and industry aims to facilitate mass adoption of millets and sorghum via strategic investments across the value chain.

Consumer Awareness

Shifting consumer preferences is another obstacle. Mainstream cereals are deeply ingrained in diets and cultures globally. We promote sorghum and millets through education initiatives and cooking demonstrations. Building consumer demand for these neglected climate-smart grains is essential.

This transition must also be inclusive, especially for smallholder farmers with deep knowledge of these resilient crops. We assist women’s cooperatives and rural communities with resources to sustainably cultivate and profit from these ancient grains. By empowering vulnerable groups, they can spearhead the shift to nutrition-sensitive, climate-smart agriculture.

With unprecedented climate threats looming, the world must reenvision food systems based on resilient ancient grains like sorghum and millets. At Sorghum United, we strive to catalyze this transformation through collaboration across the research, policy, business and social landscape. Together, we can unlock the potential of these hardy, nutritious grains to deliver a sustainable and food-secure future.

About Nate Blum

Nate Blum serves as the Chief Executive Officer of BlüMilo and Sorghum United. Sorghum United is an international NGO serving to advance education and market development for sorghum and adjacent small grains. He is an expert on grain sorghum production and marketing, with a focus on value-added agriculture processing for sorghum-based products.

Mr. Blum has represented Nebraska producers in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Vietnam, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Jordan, Great Britain, Scotland, Australia, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Nations FAO. He has also worked with international stakeholders in regard to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, hosting an Independent Food Systems Summit (August 2021). Mr. Blum served as the Executive Director of the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board and the Nebraska Sorghum Producers Association from 2019 to 2023.

Mr. Blum served on the USDA Grains, Feed, and Oilseeds Ag Trade Advisory Committee (ATAC). The ATAC advised trade policy to the office of the US Trade Representative. He is an Alumnus of the University of Nebraska (Class of 2019), the Nebraska Leadership, Education, Agriculture, Development (LEAD) Program (Class XXXVI), and recently served as the Vice president of the Nebraska LEAD Alumni Association.

Mr. Blum received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Nebraska. He enjoys volunteering for local non-profits and organizing community events in his free time.

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