Sorghum offers many options for Mid-Atlantic farmers.

Drought tolerant, water-sipping and nitrogen efficient, sorghum provides a summer rotation that has proven to be profitable in the harshest conditions and lucrative when good weather prevails.

With much of the Mid-Atlantic region being grain deficient due to intensive swine and poultry production, farmers have local livestock markets eager to purchase locally produced grain feedstocks.

Sorghum production has gained interest in recent years as regional grain demands have stoked local swine producers, like Murphy-Brown LLC, to offer competitive markets for sorghum.

With the rapid acreage increase in the 2012 growing season, many farmers are getting used to growing one of the world’s oldest grains.

Additional advantages of sorghum in the Mid-Atlantic include its ability to tolerate hot dry weather, a condition that can be challenging for corn acres during pollination. Sorghum also offers a change up in herbicide chemistry, offering a way for farmers to combat the increasing infestations of glyphosate resistant pigweed and horseweed.

Sorghum also works well in a rotation to combat nematode infestations and seems to be less favored by the high deer populations compared to soybeans.

As with many sorghum acres, particularly new acreage, many wheat, soybean and cotton farmers are curious as to how sorghum will fit into their enterprise rotation. With most farmers eyeing the high wheat prices, it is likely many double-cropped acres of wheat will follow this year’s sorghum crop.

As expected with any double-crop scenario, pros and cons exist. Wheat behind sorghum offers farmers a chance to capitalize on high grain prices twice while taking advantage of increased residue from the sorghum stubble to improve their soils.

However, this double-crop scenario could present some typical challenges.

(For a full recap of some of these challenges, see Wheat behind sorghum may cause yield drag).

Most double-cropped acres — of any crop combination — have the potential to show some yield drag in the second crop from a shorter growing season, reduced profile moisture, and reduced nitrogen availability, while the primary crop (winter or summer) will typically use the lion’s share of the water and nutrients.

Growers need to make sure to adjust soil fertility, especially when planting wheat after sorghum because sorghum removes more nitrogen from the soil than corn or other crops.

Hybrid or variety selection also plays a major role in the performance of a cropping rotation. Additional interactions of herbicide residuals, tillage practices, and organic compounds can complicate or enhance the rotation.