Kansas Sorghum Planting Progress


by Ignacio Ciampitti
K-State Crop Production and Cropping Systems Specialist

The sorghum planting season in Kansas started earlier as compared to last year. By May 11, the Kansas Agricultural Statistics projected 3 percent of sorghum had been planted, which is slightly below the five-year average (4 percent). Optimum soil temperatures for a good and uniform emergence are usually around 50-55 °F.  Planting sorghum when temperatures are below 50 °F and in moist to wet soils can decrease the number of plants that emerge and can produce a lack of uniformity in early sorghum stands. At this point of the growing season, soil temperatures around the state are above 70 °F, so if sorghum is planted this week or the next coming week(s), a quick emergence is expected (five to seven days depending on soil temperatures and moisture).

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For the current week, the Kansas Agricultural Statistics – Kansas Crop Progress and Condition (June 9, 2014) – reported 50 percent of the sorghum had been planted in the entire state, with comparable progress as related to the last year’s planting season. Statewide sorghum emergence is at 17 percent, 5 percent behind from last year and 13 percent behind from the five-year average. Northwest and south central districts are well ahead on the planting progress (less than 65 percent) and emergence (less than 25 percent), while west central and southwest regions are below for planting and emergence (less than 40 percent and less than 10 percent, respectively).

Overall, conditions for planting sorghum are improving. Temperatures are back to normal after low temperatures around mid-May, and moisture conditions around the state are improving after the rain events from the last few weeks with topsoil supply rated at 52 percent adequate. The subsoil is still short of water, rated at overall 66 percent short to very short. On the district-scale, west central and southwest still have less than 50 percent with very short to short soil moisture for both top- and sub-soil.

Management considerations for the crop

Below is just a note on reminder of the capability of the plant to compensate and adjust to diverse environments and moisture conditions. The compensation process is governed by changes in the number of tillers, head size and final seed weight. Sorghum can always compensate for good or poor environmental conditions.

Planting tips:

  • Determine your desired plant population based on average rainfall and expected growing conditions. There is no need to go overboard.
  • Make sure you plant enough seed for your desired plant population. About 65-70 percent field germination is a good general rule to use.
  • Think about using narrower row spacings to close the canopy sooner and potentially capture greater yields in yield environments of 70-90 bushels per acre or more.
  • Planting data and hybrid selection are tied together, and are related to the conditions experienced by sorghum plants during the late summer. Think about this before deciding your planting time and selecting a hybrid.

For more information about effect of planting practices on sorghum, please check the information presented at the 2014 K-State Sorghum Schools.