Want to improve your sorghum crop?
Treat it as you would your main commodity, rather than an off-season substitute, producer Mike Henson told fellow farmers during a conference in Hockley County.
Henson, part of a panel of growers in the Sorghum U conference Tuesday, Jan. 7, said he introduced sorghum to his cotton operation years ago, but didn’t see it yield significantly until he began treating it with the same care as that main crop.
“For years, all I (focused on) was cotton,” he said. “I had to get to the point where I wasn’t treating my milo like a stepchild — I was treating it like my cotton.”
Henson recommended planting sorghum in late April or early May, and promptly fertilizing with nitrogen.
“I’ve got to have that nitrogen, and I’ve got to have it quick,” he said.
Larry McDowell and Glenn Schur, other panelists, advised leaving sorghum stalks in the ground post-harvest. Those leftover plants can be used as a caution against environmental hazards, they said.
“The stalks are my friend,” Schur said. “We use them as a protection from the wind, sand and everything else.”
Schur frequently tests the soil in his fields to determine its profile and then plans accordingly, he added.
The panel advice session was one of three programs in Sorghum U, presented as a team effort from a handful of agricultural companies. With a guest list of about 75, it was held this year in the Mallet Event Center just south of Levelland.
John Duff, a biofuels and biochemicals leader with the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, served as moderator. He requested the group provide their favorite growing tips.
Burt Heinrich, the fourth panelist, said he’s noticed success by giving extra attention to young sorghum seeds. If fellow growers are limited in the amount of water and fertilizer they can provide, he advised giving the bulk of it fairly soon after planting time.
“What we’re seeing is when you take care of that grain when it’s little, it will produce,” he said.
McDowell advised growers not to waste time in harvest season, either.
“When the sorghum’s ready to harvest, harvest it,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to pick up when it’s flat. Sometimes we leave it in the field longer than we need to.”
Duff questioned the panel about whether they attribute high yields to careful management or simple luck.
Heinrich responded that certain advancements help compensate for a less-than-ideal amount of rainfall.
“Now it’s more technology in the seeds and smarter irrigation,” he said.
Schur, in contrast, credited Mother Nature for successful crop seasons.
“We’ve had some very good sorghum yields over the years,” he said. “We like to think it’s our expertise, but really it’s just luck and timely rains.”
And as for the future of the little grain, factors such as fairly easy growth and a positive ethanol market leave growers optimistic.
“I think sorghum is a very good crop, and it works perfect for this part of the world,” McDowell said. “I think the future of sorghum is very bright.”
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