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The Agriculturist

Sorghum Work

Katy Lawson

Sorghum Work

With years of knowledge and experience, he could make a fortune counseling other farmers and companies to improve themselves. However, Bruce Maunder, Ph.D., research advisor for the National Sorghum Producers Board, kindly volunteers his knowledge to improve the crop he is most passionate about"sorghum.

Maunder has been researching and improving sorghum for more than 50 years. Through these years, he has bred many hybrid crops and researched different methods of water conservation, all to help the American farmer.

Maunder started his research experience at different universities as a genetics teaching assistant. For three years, he was a teaching assistant at the University of Nebraska and Purdue University.

After graduate school at Purdue, Maunder then started working with DEKALB in 1960, where he directed worldwide breeding and genetic research for 37 years. As a sorghum researcher and breeder, he traveled and helped develop more than 150 commercial sorghum hybrids grown on as much as 10 million acres anually in many different places, such as France, Argentina, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia.

"I flew so much in my career, my Advantage Program with American Airlines is right at 3.5 million miles," Maunder said with a laugh. "That"s a lot of miles."

Maunder researched many traits of sorghum to develop a hybrid product that was most effective for its environment. Some of these environments faced harsh growing conditions and food scarcity. Therefore, Maunder and his research team focused closely on traits such as water efficiency, durability, and drought tolerance to make sorghum an even more resilient crop.
Maunder said DEKALB had 25 other companies to compete with and whoever developed the best product received the most business. This meant there was little vacation time for Maunder.

"All of my job was fun," Maunder said. "I did not need a vacation because I enjoyed what I was doing so much and spent so much time in neat places all over the world."

While working at DEKALB, Maunder traveled to Australia to support research by DEKALB Shand, an every other year event. Little did he know he would meet his wife Kathy on the Great Barrier Reef over
Easter weekend.

She was on vacation from her teaching job in Brisbane, Queensland. They later found out that her home was only 60 miles from the DEKALB home office. They stayed in touch and eventually married.

As Maunder continued his hard work with DEKALB, he climbed his way up to Senior Vice President in Sorghum Research.
"Our program had our products in 49 countries," Maunder said. "I was responsible for making sure the research both domestic and internationally was being done properly."

Maunder worked at DEKALB for another five years after receiving the Senior Vice President in Sorghum Research position and retired in 1996. However, this was not the end of his working career.

"One of my mentors, Norman Borlaug, whom I had worked with for seven years selecting winners for the World Food Prize, told me, "Bruce, if you ever stop working your brain will shrink,"" Maunder said with a chuckle. "I wanted to tell him I should have met him much sooner."

As Maunder retired, his urge to work did not. Maunder attended a meeting in New Orleans where National Sorghum Producers was one organizations present. At this meeting, the National Sorghum Producers asked Maunder if he would like to come work for their organization as a research adviser. Maunder agreed to work three days a week at the office as a volunteer.

"When you work for free, people think you"re worth a lot more," Maunder said with a chuckle. "You get all kinds of free invitations to do projects and jobs."

National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust said it is beneficial to have someone like Maunder working voluntarily for
the company.

"It"s been tremendous for our industry to have someone with 37 years worth of knowledge and experience that will come in and share in a mentoring role," Lust said.

Lust said he has learned a lot of skills from Maunder to better himself as a person and as a leader.
"He taught me a lot about showing up and working hard. I came from a family with a strong work ethic and Bruce exemplifies that."

Maunder has been volunteering for National Sorghum Producers for 15 years. Maunder continues to provide a leadership role to the National Sorghum Producers in areas of research and education.

"It"s always been fun to try to share your thoughts with others," Maunder said, "and hope that some of them might find something you say is of value or interesting."

© 2012 Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education & Communications