What is in this article?:
- Grain sorghum improves crop rotation for South Carolina growers
- Mixed, but promising results
- Max out labor supply
• David Drew says soybeans just weren’t working out on their family farm.
• Peanuts are the primary crop they grow and peanuts and soybeans just don’t mix too well.
• The primary problem with the two crops is proliferation of cyst nematodes, which can be a yield buster in peanuts.
BECCA DREW helped her dad harvest grain sorghum last year and says it wasn’t much different from other grain crops.
Mixed, but promising results
Last year they planted 550 acres of grain sorghum, with mixed, but promising results. “Most of the low yields and low test weights we got in some fields were due to our mistakes, not from a weakness of the varieties we grew or with overall process of growing grain sorghum,” he says.
For example, they had an outbreak of anthracnose in their sorghum. “We thought we knew what to do, but we ended up spraying the wrong material on a variety that was susceptible to the disease. It wasn’t a shortcoming of the variety, and if we would have sprayed the right fungicide, we wouldn’t have had a problem,” he adds.
“We could see some differences in the color of the heads on the most and least susceptible varieties because of the color difference. The sorghum from the variety that responded well to the fungicide we sprayed was an orange color and the other was a dusty brown,” he says.
Only after they harvested the sorghum did they find out what the different coloration meant in terms of yield and quality. In the orange colored heads the test weights of the seeds ranged from 55-60 pounds per bushel. On the more susceptible variety, test weights were in the 30s and 40s.
The diversity of crops the Drew’s farm often creates some timing issues, and he says last year they definitely planted grain sorghum too early. “We planted it in mid-April last year. At harvest time we had weather related delays in harvesting cotton and peanuts, and found out real quick that grain sorghum won’t wait in the field — when it’s time to harvest, you have to harvest,” he says. “That was one advantage of growing soybeans, they would wait in the field until we got finished harvesting other crops.”.
The early planting also likely added to some grass problems he had with sorghum and the crop began to head out at a time when corn earworms were at their peak.
“Our scouts told us one day they found some worms in our sorghum field. Within a few days the population exploded, and we had to stop digging peanuts and spray all the sorghum to prevent it from being destroyed by corn earworms,” he says.
“Last year we strip-tilled some of our sorghum and will do so again this year. However, last year we were too pushed for time and ran the strip-till rig and applied our burndown herbicides too close to planting.
“This year we can take our time and get everything done a couple of weeks prior to planting. I think that will help some with weed and grass control and it will be a big help at harvest time.”