Seven good reasons to grow sorghum
With advances in corn genetics to increase drought tolerance, and the adoption of glyphosate-resistant corn, many farmers may ask, “Why should I grow grain sorghum?”
Bob Fanning, a South Dakota State University Extension plant pathology field specialist, says there are at least seven good reasons to grow grain sorghum:
• It’s is a good rotational crop. “Sorghum [also known as milo] in a crop rotation can provide significant benefits,” Fanning says. “At least three crop types — broadleaf and cool-season grasses, as well as warm-season crops, planted in long intervals of two to four years — are needed to break some of the disease, weed and insect cycles.”
• Corn yields are higher when corn follows sorghum than when corn follows corn, even though both are warm-season grasses. “Grain sorghum offers a rotational crop ahead of corn that can help control Goss’s wilt,” Fanning says. Goss’s wilt is a bacterial disease that can seriously plague corn producers. Fungicides offer no control for Goss’s wilt. Their use can actually make the disease worse, since they can end up weakening the natural protective layer on the leaf, and because they kill the beneficial fungi that feed on bacteria. Also, neither corn rootworms nor corn borers survive on sorghum.
• Sorghum residue is better than corn for catching snow.
• It’s easier to no-till into sorghum residue than corn residue.
• Sorghum is drought-tolerant. Plants require only about 6.5 inches of moisture to reach the point where they will produce grain. They add about 500 pounds of grain, or about 9 bushels per acre-inch of rain, once that point is reached.
• Pheasants like grain sorghum. The crop supports large pheasant populations.
• Sorghum seed costs less than corn seed.
For all these reasons, Fanning encourages farmers to consider making grain sorghum a part of their crop rotation in areas where sorghum is adapted.
• There are good reasons to raise sorghum this year.
• Benefits include drought tolerance, cost and rotation impact.
• The crop will support a large pheasant population.
This article published in the June, 2014 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.