INTEREST IN grain sorghum is high in the Southeast, as evidenced by the questions at a recent South Carolina field day.
Good rotation crop
Though results of the grain sorghum OVT won’t be available until later this fall, it is already apparent that sorghum will be a good rotation crop for some growers, Gunter says.
“Some of the varieties in our OVT test program were planted in a double-crop situation and sorghum in these plots is doing well. For growers who don’t want to go back to beans again, sorghum should do well. It may also be a good fit on land with high nematode populations — nematodes don’t seem to like sorghum as much as they do other crops,” Gunter adds.
One of the few problems with grain sorghum production this year has been with grasses like signalgrass and Texas and fall panicum. There are plenty of herbicides available to manage grass in sorghum, but it does take some timely application, Gunter says.
He adds that the inputs for grain sorghum are lower because the crop requires less nitrogen than corn, for example. There is no technology fee for grain sorghum, but varieties are available from well known companies like Pioneer, DeKalb and Southern States.
Variety tests at the Pee Dee Station are being conducted in both full-season and double-crop situations and sorghum seems to be doing well in both, Gunter says.
The crop has a lower water requirement, which can also be a risk reducer, he says.
In both North and South Carolina much of the sorghum planted in 2012 went on soil that historically doesn’t produce yields as high as more fertile ground. Sorghum tends to do well in sandy soil, as long as it’s not too sandy, the Clemson specialist adds.
Another niche area for grain sorghum in the Upper Southeast is on farms on which grain crops are traditionally damaged by deer.
Though birds, especially migratory birds, can be a big problem with grain sorghum, deer don’t seem to prefer it over native vegetation and definitely not over other grain crops.
How much acreage will increase from 2012 to 2013 in the Carolinas likely will be determined by the acceptance of the grain for feeding chickens and turkey.
If high corn prices continue to force livestock producers to look for other, less expensive, sources of feed, then demand for sorghum may increase significantly.
Where the sorghum acres will come from may be a tough situation. Replacing $18 an acre beans in a double-crop will not likely be an option for most growers.