Five Reasons to Plant Grain Sorghum this Year

By Kayla Wilkins, Communications Intern

Strong demand from both domestic and international markets is sending strong signals to growers, indicating it is prime time to increase grain sorghum acres. This strong demand established by a number of market factors creates positive opportunities for sorghum growers across the U.S, leading to increased profitability. Here are the top five reasons producers should consider growing grain sorghum this year:

Highest new crop bids in history: For the first time, new crop bids for grain sorghum are highly competitive with comparable grains. Producers are experiencing more options when it comes to marketing their grain sorghum, resulting in more incentive to increase acres with these current competitive prices.

"Producers are seeing very good basis," said Stewart Weaver, past Sorghum Checkoff chairman. "This is the first time we have seen prices above corn. Grain sorghum acres are increasing and interest is on the rise. A lot of producers are starting to add grain sorghum in rotation now."

Strong demand for grains globally: The recent skyrocketing demand for grain sorghum internationally is no secret. China entered the export market for grain sorghum in 2013 and since then, exports have been on the rise. Domestically, we are seeing grain sorghum expanding and growing in sectors like human food, ethanol and livestock feed.

“What we are seeing in the sorghum industry that is so unique and exciting is an explosion of demand for sorghum that we have never seen before,” said Matt Rush, a grower from Portales, New Mexico. “We have China coming on board, we have local demand, and we are seeing new areas using sorghum that is leading to more opportunity for producers.”

Highest potential profit: During this challenging time for producers with drought in some regions, considering production costs is imperative. Currently sorghum seed prices are marking in at a lower cost than comparable crops, creating a larger profit margin for producers.

“Sorghum potentially could have as much or more profit than competitive grains because the inputs are simply less,” said Larry Dahlsten, National Sorghum Producers board director. “It is a crop that needs to be looked at more seriously every year.”

Risk aversion: Grain sorghum is drought and heat-tolerant, so it has elevated potential to be a high profitability crop in many areas. Across the high plains where water shortages are a challenge for producers, grain sorghum can still produce high yields and make profit, especially with the increase in demand for grain sorghum in a wide array of markets.

“With low rainfall, we have still been able to produce a sorghum crop,” said Blake Tregellas, Texas sorghum board director,. “We still always have something to take to the elevator to make profit.”

Strong yield potential: High yields in grain sorghum are becoming more prevalent. A combination of grain sorghum’s ability to withstand inclement weather and high basis have made grain sorghum the smart choice for producers across the sorghum belt and other regions.

“I think the future is bright,” said Chad Hayes, sorghum geneticist at USDA. “Some of the disease traits and drought traits that are coming down the pipeline are giving a farmer the tools to grow sorghum and have really good yields.”

When making planting decisions for 2015, these are some important factors to take into consideration regarding grain sorghum. The future is bright for the sorghum industry and the producers involved.

“It is important for producers to get involved in the industry right now because we are at a truly golden age for sorghum,” Rush said. “With all the growth we are seeing with demand and the technologies that are coming into the industry, it’s the perfect time to get in on the ground floor of a budding industry.”