What is in this article?:
- Aim a little higher for grain sorghum production
- Weed control improved
- Seeding rate, fertility, rotation and weed control all play a role in grain sorghum production.
- Planting too early could result in stressed seedlings.
- Planting too many seeds per acre is a mistake.
Calvin Trostle, Texas AgriLife Extension agronomist
Weed control improved
Weed control has long been a challenge for grain sorghum producers. That has become a bit easier, Trostle said, with a new herbicide, Huskie. “A few farmers used it in 2011, and a few more tried it in 2012. A former colleague said Huskie is the best new herbicide he had seen in 30 years.”
Target weeds include Palmer amaranth, morningglory, devils claw and Russian thistle. Best results come from application to weeds four inches tall or less.
Huskie does not volatize; it will drift but not to the degree that other herbicides will.”
Huskie is a selective post-emergence herbicide. “It works best applied with Atrazine,” Trostle said. “It is not a stand-alone treatment.”
He also recommends a stewardship approach. “Just because it is a good over-the-top option doesn’t mean farmers should neglect pre-plant or pre-emerge weed control.”
Cotton farmers have plant-back restrictions, which require an 18-month break before planting cotton. A nine- to 10-month plant-back option is being considered. For small grain, the plant-back limit is only a month.
Trostle said Huskie may result in some mostly cosmetic plant injury.
In addition to offering farmers a profitable crop option, Trostle said grain sorghum also provides soil enrichment benefits, especially with reduced tillage. Stubble management is important.
“Turning stubble under doesn’t necessarily increase soil organic matter,” he said. “But the roots do. Should growers mow it off? They can plant cotton to the side of grain sorghum stubble or down the row.”
He said the best option is to let stubble stand for as long as possible. “The only way to increase soil organic matter is to use a reduced tillage system.”
Grain sorghum rotation benefits cotton, he added. “Rotation benefits amount to a 7 percent to a 12 percent advantage.”
Growers may have a tougher time finding their favorite hybrids this year, Trostle said, although recent jumps in cotton prices may result in some growers returning sorghum seed. “Check with your dealer,” he advised. Growers also should be prepared to pay more for seed, up to $50 or $60 a bag. “That’s not a significant cost in the big picture and it makes sense to pay an extra $1 to $3 for a good hybrid. I don’t like cheap seed. Growers should buy the best they can get.”
He also said that herbicide tolerant sorghum hybrids should soon be available. Those options will offer tolerance to ALS herbicides (Accent and Glean, for example). “The target date for release is 2014 or 2015. But the first herbicide tolerant hybrids may not have the yield potential compared to the standards.”
Grain sorghum, Trostle said, offers Southern Rolling Plains farmers, as well as farmers across the Southwest, a viable crop alternative. But to take full advantage of the crop’s drought tolerance and yield potential, farmers must bump up their expectations of what grain sorghum can do and manage it accordingly.