Harvesting Grain Sorghum
Grain sorghum can be one of the more challenging grains to harvest. Time should be taken to properly adjust and operate the combine to achieve a harvest efficiency of 95 percent of the total grain.
Grain sorghum can be harvested once the grain has reached physiological maturity and is no longer accumulating dry matter within the grain. Grain sorghum matures from the top of the head and progresses downward to the base. Considering this, it is important to check grain at the bottom of the head to determine whether the grain is mature. Initially, hard starch accumulates at the top or crown of each kernel. The grain is considered mature once the hard starch has filled to the base of the kernel. Mature grain will be hard to penetrate when pinching the bottom of the kernel between your fingernails and should have a black spot at its base.
Grain sorghum is harvested with a combine using a grain header with rigid cutterbar, a flex header in the rigid position or a row crop header. Guards that help pick up heads are recommended if heads are drooping or stalks are lodged. Sorghum stalks are generally much wetter than corn stalks at harvest, and they may be sticky from sugars. Stalk and green leaf material pulled into the harvester is more likely to clump in the combine, thus increasing harvest losses, and residue can also collect in the hopper with grain. Stalk material mixed in with grain can cause problems with drying and storing. To avoid these problems with standing sorghum, raise and lower the header as needed to harvest as little of the stalk and leaves as possible.
Producers may want to consider harvest aids to dry down the leaves and stalks for easier threshing or to dry out the late-emerging non-productive sucker-head tillers.