Pushing the Boundaries with Sorghum

By Kayla Wilkins, Sorghum Checkoff Communications Intern

Chris Robinson may be growing grain sorghum in a location off the beaten path when it comes to the Sorghum Belt, but the crop has certainly proved itself as a mainstay on his Kentucky farm.

It didn’t take long for Robinson to find success with sorghum. After growing the crop for only four years, he won the Non-Irrigated Bin Buster Award during the 2012 National Sorghum Producers Yield and Management Contest with a 200.29 bu/ac yield. Robinson said sorghum should not be seen as a back up to other crops. While it can withstand harsh growing conditions, he says it can really thrive in desirable environments as well.

A high return on investment, stress tolerance and advancements in technology are all benefits Robinson is experiencing with grain sorghum. Kentucky may not be ground zero for grain sorghum production, but Robinson said it has huge potential for expansion in the area.

“Sorghum could be a high producing crop in the state, not only on stressful ground, but good ground as well,” Robinson said. “It’s going to take advertising and educational opportunities to let people know and understand the potential and possibilities of the product.”

Robinson said he has seen increased profits since adding grain sorghum to his Kentucky farming operation 10 years ago. It is a crop that yields consistently, despite climate challenges.

“We are cutting production cost and getting premiums on the end of the cycle as well, so it’s a money maker.” Robinson said. “It has just fit into our farming operation very well.”

Robinson is also expanding his knowledge base in the sorghum industry through his involvement in the Sorghum Checkoff’s Leadership Sorghum program. As a member of the program’s second class, he is getting the opportunity to see the sorghum industry from a new perspective.

“My knowledge on sorghum was limited to my little area and that’s not a whole lot in western Kentucky.” Robinson said. “We’ve been to the major sorghum growing areas and it has really opened my eyes to what those guys are doing.”

The knowledge gained from Leadership Sorghum is giving Robinson the tools he needs to help spread the word about sorghum’s benefits regionally. Robinson said he uses his personal experience to help fellow farmers as much as he can.

“I just explain to them my process and what I’ve done, it’s an exchange in thoughts and ideas between me and fellow farmers,” Robinson said.

Robinson said he is also constantly looking for new and unique innovations to try with grain sorghum in his own operation. In fact, he uses a higher seed population then what other producers in his area are using and has found it beneficial to his overall yield.

“We like to push the population to push the yield and that's why we decided to use a higher seed population in our area,” Robinson said.

To achieve the highest yield possible, Robinson has found that trying new management techniques is key. He said he is trying to get the most he can out of this unusual crop to western Kentucky.

“We try to push the boundaries with grain sorghum. We will continue to get the best combination of product to achieve the best possible yield for the best possible return on our investment.”