USCP Agronomy Check


   As coaches preach in football, there really is no such thing as an “off-season.” The so-called off-season is actually when the most important decisions and training take place to set the stage for the next victorious season.
   The same could be said of sorghum production. With harvest completed and the 2015 season behind us, the off-season should begin in earnest now with planning and preparing to have a fruitful 2016 growing season. Here are a couple of winter and early spring considerations for farmers looking to maximize sorghum productivity and profitability.

   Soil moisture and nutrients
   In dry environments, it is usually best to leave sorghum stalks standing throughout the winter and early spring. Standing stalks will help prevent snow from blowing off the field, resulting in more water being stored in the soil profile. Retaining more moisture in the soil is like a good savings account. Just as a savings account can be used to get through unexpected expenses, water stored in the soil can be used during the growing season to get through a dry spell. Standing stalks also help reduce erosion from wind and rain.
   Farmers should collect soil samples for nutrient analysis to determine the amount of fertilizer that will be needed for the next crop. Keep in mind that if the previous crop was soybeans, a credit of 20 to 40 lbs N, depending on soil type and soybean yield harvested, should be taken into account. Adding the correct amount of nutrients to the soil is critical in achieving sorghum yield goals.
   Research shows that sorghum requires approximately 1 lb of N for every bushel of grain produced.
   Hybrid selection and budget
   Sorghum farmers should begin thinking about hybrid choice for next season. They should diligently review university and company data in selecting a hybrid – most of these state hybrid trial results are compiled for your convenience by National Sorghum Producers. Many seed companies have extensive seed guides and agronomists on-hand to help find the seed that best fits the agronomic profile of your specific fields.
   Yield is always important, but other key characteristics to consider are standability and disease and insect resistance.
   It is always a good idea to plant more than one hybrid to spread and mitigate risk. As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
   Lastly, in preparing next year’s crop budgets, compare input costs of sorghum to other crops, and the Sorghum Checkoff is available to help you with that. The cost of growing sorghum is generally less than many other traditional crops. With international markets growing, many farmers are considering adding sorghum to their crop mix next year. One final thought is that sorghum is a great crop to use in rotation with soybeans or cotton. Yield potential of these crops will often be higher when following sorghum. ∆
   BRENT BEAN: Agronomist, United Sorghum Checkoff Program
MidAmerica Farm Publications, Inc
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