Persistent Rains Delay Sorghum Planting in South, Coastal Region

By: Michelle Hochstein, Communications Intern

Sorghum growers in the lower coastal regions from South Texas to the Louisiana border experienced a steady flow of rain at the end of March, causing planting dates to shift later into the season.

Wayne Cleveland, Texas Sorghum Producers executive director, said most producers in the valley were delayed two to three weeks on average. With normal conditions, most producers would be through planting by now, but instead, they are just getting started.

Cleveland said he estimates 90 percent of grain sorghum will be planted by April 10.

This delay, he said, will put a burden on the system because about 30 percent of the grain sorghum in the area is under contract.

Jim Massey, a sorghum producer from Robstown, Texas, said he and other area producers have 3,000 pounds per acre or more under contract for harvest delivery.

“Essentially what this means is there is a huge demand for sorghum from South Texas right now,” Cleveland said. “We are relying on the grain to be at the port in June, but now it will be late June or early July.”

Later harvest dates will push into the beginning of hurricane season. Cleveland said timing to get the crop out before summer rains and hurricane season arrives is critical, recommending producers to look at a shorter term grain sorghum that matures in 90 to 100 days.

A late harvest may bring about other issues as well, Massey said, including trucking and custom harvester shortages, sprout issues caused by rainy periods, and delayed shipments of sorghum for export.

“With our new found export partner, China, we want to do everything possible to promote sorghum quality and supply,” he said.

Aside from typical best management practices, Cleveland said he encourages producers to keep an extra look out for the presence of the sugarcane aphid.

“The aphid over wintered, and that is the one thing that could really cause growers some concern down the road,” Cleveland said. “They need to scout fields to make sure they have a seed treatment on their grain sorghum that abates the aphids until the 40 or 50 day period.”

The rainfall may cause some South Texas cotton growers to face delays in planting, as well. This late harvest could conflict with the Sept. 1 boll weevil and cotton stalk destruction deadline, which may convince some cotton growers to plant grain sorghum instead.

Jeff Nunley, South Texas Cotton and Grain Association executive director, said he is not sure if the stalk destruction deadline in itself will be the decision maker for growers.

“I think the market is going to be the determining factor,” Nunley said. “It will be a significant incentive for them to get a grain crop in the ground and get it going.”

Even though this weather has taken area producers aback and has been frustrating regarding the delay in planting, Nunley said he is very optimistic about what it means for the future.

“I am hoping this weather we have gotten is a break in our drought cycle that we have been in,” he said. “It would be nice to get back in a pattern where we get rainfall and can grow crops.”