J.B. Stewart, new chairman of the board of directors for the National Sorghum Producers, said his farm near Keyes, Oklahoma, up in the Panhandle, “has been dry. Some wheat simply didn’t come up,” he said. “We had no real planting moisture and soils are dry to 8 inches down. We have some moisture below that.” With those dry conditions, he thinks Oklahoma farmers may plant more grain sorghum this year to take advantage of a more drought tolerant plant.

He’s also seen growers follow a successful rotation program with sorghum, canola and wheat. “Rotation helps clean up weeds in wheat,” he said. He makes two crops every three years, and leaves wheat fields fallow after harvest. He plants sorghum in the fallowed wheat fields the following spring and then follows sorghum with wheat the next fall.

Albracht may increase grain sorghum acreage this year as well as he looks for ways to get by on less water. He hopes to increase grain sorghum yields and thinks he can push production to near 260 bushels per acre. “I can’t just do what everyone else does,” he said. “I’ll look hard at fertility and maybe apply some fungicide. It’s all about plant health, just like with corn.”

Variety selection will be a factor as well. “Varieties are coming that will stand better,” he said. He may tweak seeding rate a bit, too. “In the past I’ve tended to plant thick and I may need to back off a bit. We have to get and keep a good stand.”

He’s not resting on his laurels with his corn yield either. His annual goal is to average about 300 bushels per acre across the board. He’s done that. But he thinks with more intense management he can push a little higher. “I think I can get another 20 bushels per acre,” he said. “But Mother Nature has to cooperate.

“I’ll do some testing, looking at the root system and look early and late at leaves. I still have things to change.”

He’s already adjusted the way he irrigates during severe drought conditions. He plants corn in circular rows. “I re-nozzle the irrigation system to put water on the outside of the plant rows.”

He’s also looked at drought tolerant corn hybrids. “I tried some on fields that are producing only 200 gallons of water,” he said. “Yields are not up to what I get with my usual hybrids but this is a tool I have to look into to stretch water.”

And he’s convinced that will be necessary. “In 1993, some wells were producing 800 to 900 gallons. Today, some of those are producing 200 gallons and are dropping. We have to adjust.”



Also of interest:

Long-range weather outlook for Southwest is not optimistic

Water issue offers a lesson in humility

Climatologist, Water Development Board see continued drought