INTEREST IN grain sorghum is high in the Southeast, as evidenced by the questions at a recent South Carolina field day.
It’s officially called grain sorghum, though in the Upper Southeast it’s known more commonly as milo.
Regardless of the name, interest in the crop is growing in the Southeast primarily because of one word — money.
In North Carolina grain sorghum production is up five-fold from 2011 acreage, with final acres likely to top 50,000. In other areas of the Southeast growth is up significantly, if not as dramatically as in North Carolina.
In South Carolina, Clemson Soybean, Corn and Small Grain Specialist David Gunter says interest in grain sorghum is definitely up. “I don’t remember us ever having a situation in which a buyer comes to growers and says I’ve got a market for your crop and I’ll pay you this much for it — before the crop is planted,” Gunter says.
Much of the new market for grain sorghum in the Upper Southeast comes from Murphy-Brown a large livestock production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods Inc. — the world’s largest producer of pork products. Murphy-Brown is headquartered in Warsaw, N.C.
Murphy-Brown has been paying 95 percent of harvest cash price of corn for sorghum delivered to select delivery points.
A signed contract committing to deliver a set number of bushels to a specific delivery point has been required.
Sorghum has been contracted for delivery at eight locations, including SGC Elevators in Bentonville, LaGrange, Bladenboro, Clinton, and Mount Olive, N.C.,; the Murphy-Brown Elevator in Nichols (S.C.); and Murphy-Brown Feed Mills in Laurinberg and Waverly, Va.
Gunter says a few growers in and around Bishopville, S.C., have grown sorghum for 5-6 years, primarily for a large poultry company in the area, and have done well with the crop. However, until the push by Murphy-Brown, there wasn’t much interest in growing sorghum in other areas of the state.
“The renewed interest in sorghum provided the impetus for us to begin working with the crop again. The first thing we did was to create an OVT, or official variety test, for grain sorghum. The results will be available to growers to help them pick optimum varieties next year,” Gunter says.
So far a number of varieties look good in tests at the Pee Dee Agriculture Research and Education Center in Florence, S.C.