What is in this article?:
- North Carolina growers see advantages to grain sorghum
- Some express caution
- Drought tolerant
• Growers are choosing the crop for the real advantages it provides: drought tolerance; flexible planting dates; unattractiveness to deer; no need for specialized equipment or costly inputs; and improved rotation and double-crop options for management of plant-parasitic nematodes and difficult weeds.
SORGHUM’S drought tolerance, lower production costs and unattractiveness to deer are making the crop popular with North Carolina farmers.
Some express caution
Some advisers express caution about planting small grain immediately after sorghum. The concern is that crop residue may interfere with germination, wheat nutrition and yield.
At present, this concern is largely speculative, but NCDA&CS agronomists are working with several growers who have chosen this cropping system so they can monitor progress and try to address any problems that arise.
Sorghum preferable to corn on light land
Frank Hines, of Wayne County, is well pleased with his 60 acres of grain sorghum.
“This was my first year,” Hines said. “There’s a place for sorghum here, I think. It’s better than corn on light land because there are fewer expenses. I especially liked double-cropping sorghum after wheat. I didn’t have to disk. I planted no-till right into the wheat stubble.”
Hines was serious enough about his new crop to thoroughly investigate best production practices.
He gave NCDA&CS agronomists permission to carry out a nitrogen-rate study on his farm. In September, he hosted a local educational field tour. He collaborated with Wayne County Cooperative Extension agent John Sanderson to evaluate desiccation methods and their effect on harvesting.
“I’m learning a lot,” Hines said. “I’m sure the more I grow it, the better I’ll get at it.”
Sorghum is not without its challenges, and Hines readily concedes that fact. Even though the rotation is good for pigweed management, sorghum has weed problems of its own. In 2012, Texas panicum was the primary weed problem Hines had to contend with.
“We need something to control grass,” Hines said. “Even with bad grass though, sorghum can still average 65 bushels per acre. There’s some indication that varieties make a big difference. I don’t know that we have the best varieties right now. We use whatever is available.”
Harnett grower sees future for sorghum
In Harnett County, growers Ronnie Hall and Laurel “Stick” Cameron each have two years of experience with the crop. They both started out with 50 to 60 acres and opted for more the next year. T
hese last two growing seasons represent the typical variability in the Sandhills region. In 2011, the weather was hot and dry. Corn withered and sorghum waited it out. In 2012, weather was near perfect. Corn probably would have done well, but sorghum did well, too.
“There’s no comparison between grain sorghum last year and this year,” Hall said. “Partly because the weather this year was so much better and partly because growers have more experience with the crop now.
“Next year, I’m probably going to drop back on soybeans and corn and go with even more grain sorghum. I’m pleased with yield, pigweed control and deer control. I think the crop has a good future in this area.”
Cameron concurs and is planning his own strategy. He grows soybean seed for Monsanto and has battled pigweed problems and infestations of plant-parasitic nematodes. The company approves of the way he is incorporating grain sorghum into his overall rotation.