New leadership day for the National Sorghum Foundation

One of the great pleasures of working for National Sorghum Producers for more than a decade has been the opportunity to interact with the giants of the industry on a daily basis. Three of these men I have been fortunate enough to learn from are Bruce Maunder, Larry Lambright and Jeff Dahlberg.

Both former presidents of the National Sorghum Foundation who work part-time from NSP headquarters, Maunder and Lambright have left lasting legacies in the sorghum industry. Maunder was known worldwide as an expert in sorghum genetics and breeding, and his work over a decade-long career at DeKalb led to the development of sorghum varieties that are still market leaders today. During his time as president of the foundation, he facilitated research that led to significant advances in crop productivity and sustainability, and mentored and financially supported hundreds of students across the U.S.

Lambright, a onetime student and then a longtime colleague of Maunders, was also a respected leader in the sorghum seed industry, and his contributions to the foundation were equally significant. He has also been on the ground floor of several new initiatives, serving as a consultant to the sorghum control staff in the early years of the program. Following Maunder’s death in 2019, Lambright was a natural fit to lead the foundation into a new era. When he stepped aside in 2022, Dahlberg was just as natural to take the reins.

Command role

With great leaders like Maunder and Lambright setting the standard, expectations for Jeff Dahlberg are sky high. Luckily, Jeff was born for this role. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a deep commitment to improving the sorghum industry and his work over the decades has had a tremendously positive impact on the crop.

Dahlberg’s career began as a volunteer agricultural extension agent with the United States Peace Corps in Niger, where he first learned about sorghum from local subsistence farmers. After earning her master’s degree in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Arizona and her doctorate in plant breeding and genetics from Texas A & M University, she went on to work for the USDA Agricultural Research Service. There he was a research geneticist and the sorghum curator for the Tropical Crops and Germplasm Research Center in Mayagez, Puerto Rico. He then spent over a decade leading research efforts for NSP, where he played a key role in both genetic research and the research that provided the foundation upon which the modern sorghum ethanol industry was built.

Most recently, he served as director of the University of California Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, beginning in 2010. While in California, he built a leading drought research program, helping to bring back forages of sorghum in California as an important tool for dairy farmers looking to save water and reduce the cost of forage. He has also played a major role in many of the Department of Energy’s investments in sorghum as part of the Terra program that began in 2014.

In this new role as chair of the National Sorghum Foundation, Dahlberg has big shoes to fill. However, I know he is more than up to the challenge. With his extensive experience in sorghum research, his decades of institutional knowledge of the sorghum industry, his commitment to helping meet sustainability by promoting sorghum, and his proven ability to build relationships across the industry, Dahlberg is the ideal person to help move the sorghum industry forward in this capacity. Can’t wait to see what happens to the National Sorghum Foundation!

Duff is the founder of Ser Ag Strategies and serves as a consultant to National Sorghum Producers. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @sorghumduff.

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