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Sorghum production in Italy increases

Naturally gluten-free cultivation, 3,859,000 quintals produced in 2020

Sorghum production in Italy increases. According to the latest Istat data, in 2020 the cultivated area reached 53,934 hectares compared to 46,799 in 2019, equal to a total production of 3,859,000 quintals (last year it had stopped at 3,133,000 quintals). The productive characteristics of sorghum make it a crop fully in line with the needs dictated by climate change, especially since its water requirement is very limited. But above all it is a naturally gluten-free crop.

The Stirone Barleyfree brewery in Fidenza (Pr) has been producing a "fermented alcoholic sorghum drink" for four years (not being produced with wheat or barley, according to Italian law it cannot be defined as beer), suitable for people who cannot take gluten. According to the most recent data, in our country celiac people surveyed oscillate between 200 thousand and 300 thousand units. On sorghum in the 1970s, the national research institutes had initiated several studies aimed at the genetic improvement of the plant; the lack of resources and a greater interest in a crop such as corn have actually reduced and reduced many of the projects started. The only European country where scientific research on sorghum is experiencing a very flourishing season is France, the first producer of the old continent, followed by Italy, which mostly sells hybrids of French and / or American origin.

"The multiple potentialities of sorghum", says the brewer Romano Iezzi,"are the basis of our production which is diversified into three types: LaGaia Ambra, LaGaia Bionda and LaGaia Summer Bräu, to which the (don' t) Drink Before Christmas (see EFA News article of 11-11-20 ). Currently the Stirone Barleyfree brewery buys sorghum from a certified farm, but in its future projects there is also that of starting the production of white sorghum on its own to guarantee that concept of a short supply chain that today has more and more relevance. A project that was supposed to start already this year, but that the consequences of the pandemic have postponed, "maybe only until next year", underlines Iezzi.

"The agri-food sector is looking at sorghum with growing interest", Marco Bergami, a Bolognese agricultural entrepreneur explains. "This year, my 30 hectares have produced respectable quantities with an average of 70-75 quintals / hectare and peaks of up to 85- 90 quintals / hectare. Surely the season has given us a hand, but the peculiarities of the crop, its ability to grow without resorting to large quantities of water and large doses of fertilizers arouse a lot of interest and those who have made a drink that satisfy certain characteristics due to its characteristics are welcome food needs and honors a crop that farmers today, and the numbers show, look with renewed interest".

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EFA News - European Food Agency