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• In the past growers have tried growing a number of new crops, found they could grow the crop, but after the crop was harvested had no market for the end product, he says.
• With the new marketing opportunity for grain sorghum from several grain buyers, combined with Murphy-Brown’s strong push with growers, production in North Carolina is expected to be near 50,000 acres, roughly five times the acreage from 2011.
ALLAN BAUCOM, right, and Murphy-Brown grain buyer David Hull, check irrigated grain sorghum in North Carolina.
Has long history
He calls grain sorghum milo and recalls growing the crop many years ago.
“I grew up on a farm, and I remember growing milo, but my family had a very small farming operation, and it was just one of several crops we grew as livestock feed. We planted it on land not conducive to growing cotton,” he says.
Any grower with a large and diverse row crop farming operation struggles to find crops that fit from planting, to crop protection, to harvesting and marketing. Looking for the best fit for milo, Baucom planted single-crop on lighter soils, double-crop milo behind wheat with irrigation, and double-crop milo behind wheat with no irrigation.
“Our business approach to all crops is bottom-line based. We are looking for net profit per acre, per crop. When we planted milo, double-crop behind wheat for example, we had a target yield of 80 bushels per acre.
“If we meet the target yield for the different systems in which we are growing milo, it will be better for our bottom line than corn this year,” Baucom says.
The North Carolina grower says budgets are based on milo selling for 90 percent of the going price of corn, even though Murphy-Brown is strongly committed to buying the crop at 95 percent of the base price of corn.
We would like to see 105 percent the price of corn, he jokes, but notes that even at 90 percent of corn, grain sorghum can provide a good bottom line net in his farming operation.
In addition to being a strong player on the economic side of his farming business, Baucom says milo is also a good fit for their long-term goal of building up the soil on all the farms on which his company grows crops.
“All our land is planted no-till, and we feel like we need to improve the quality of the topsoil on some of our farms. On some of our land that is not ideally suited to corn production and is marginal for cotton, grain sorghum is a good option for building up the quality of soil on these farms,” Baucom says.
Milo is more water-forgiving — it will wait a little longer for moisture. It also leaves a good quality of residue on the soil, all of which helps build up subsoil microbes and beneficial insects that help open the soil and make it easier for plants to get nutrients and moisture, he adds.
This year they planted 1,000 acres of milo under several different planting systems, looking for the one that fits best into his operation.
“Milo is a new crop, so we started with varieties — we planted two DeKalb varieties and two Pioneer varieties. After we get the milo crop harvested, we’ll take a look at which ones performed best and make decisions about which ones to plant in the future,” he says.
For the North Carolina grower planting milo was much like planting corn, about the only difference was changing the disc in the planters.