Posted on Jun 11, 2019
By Brent Bean, Ph.D., Sorghum Checkoff Agronomist
Due to excessive rainfall and other adverse weather conditions, many growers may be looking for an alternative crop. Although optimum planting dates for grain sorghum may have passed in many regions, growers typically can plant sorghum later than other crops and still make an acceptable yield at a lower risk. Input costs are less than most other crops. For example, sorghum seed typically costs $9-$18 per acre depending on seeding rate, while corn seed typically costs $55-$110 an acre depending on seeding rate and traits.
Grain sorghum can provide a number of benefits to growers, not only this year but next year. Growers typically receive a yield benefit for soybeans, cotton and corn when planted after sorghum. In addition, sorghum’s root system often can penetrate compacted soils and reduce diseases and nematodes that plague other crops. After harvest, sorghum stalks can provide excellent fodder for cattle grazing during the winter or provide ground cover and residue going into the spring.
From a demand standpoint, National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust said that despite ongoing negotiations and tariff restrictions with China, the U.S. has sold multiple vessels to China in the last few weeks, and this demand and market signals offer optimism for global feed grain needs such as sorghum.
Growers should consider a few other factors when deciding to plant a late sorghum crop. Current USDA guidance requires planting a program crop or alfalfa to collect a Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payment. Final plant dates for crop insurance vary by region, but growers can contact local insurance agents for insurance coverage and options. Also, sorghum works well as a cover crop behind prevented planting, and resources on this provision are available from the USDA Risk Management Agency.
When planting sorghum, growers should choose a hybrid that is adapted to the region with maturity that fits the remaining growing season and consider any herbicide residual that may be present from a previously planted crop. Seeding rates for late planting can range from 30,000 seeds per acre for a 75-bushel yield goal to 70,000 seeds per acre to achieve 150 bushels per acre.
Additional agronomic and marketing resources, including information on sorghum management following a wet winter and spring, preemergence weed control, fertilizing grain sorghum, seeding rate, sorghum marketing connections and Sorghum Checkoff marketing staff, are available at SorghumCheckoff.com.
For information on local bids or additional topics, growers can contact National Sorghum Producers at 800-658-9808.