|Some of the best-looking milo a couple of weeks ago (ignore that crabgrass)|
|Harvesting some of that better-looking milo a few days ago|
As an aside, I'm starting to prefer calling it milo instead of grain sorghum, mainly because the elevator it's being hauled to calls it milo, and "milo" seems to roll off the tongue a little easier than "grain sorghum". Next week, I might go back to calling it grain sorghum due to some other goofy reason. The fact that milo/grain sorghum has two different names might explain why it can sometimes be a battle to get a decent crop and why more of it isn't grown. I wonder how much corn would be grown if it was called both "corn" and "yeller grain"?
When I planted this field back in May, milo was selling for around $4.50/bu, and now at harvest it's going for a little under $3.00/bu. Due to that drop in price and different weed pressures that seem to be impossible to control (which dropped the yield significantly in parts of the field), that field managed to make just a little bit over the break-even point (when you just consider the money aspects). I made a little money, but I didn't make very much.
It might just be me, but combining milo has always been a miserable job, the chaff is extra itchy (it gave me a horrendous nose-bleed the first time I ever combined some milo) and some of the grain always seems to shatter into a fine, corn-starch-like powder that feels like it gets all over me when I'm combining it (I'll probably need to get a haircut to get it all out of my hair). Those are just a few of the reasons (there are a few more reasons on top of those) that I hate growing milo.
But growing milo isn't all poverty and misery. I probably saw a couple dozen rabbits in that field from the combine (of course, it also could have been just one rabbit that was chasing the combine all over the field), I jumped a big covey of quail, saw a handful of dove flying around, heard some pheasant roosters cackling early in the morning over in a neighbor's milo field (not in this field yet), and the ducks usually show up in the winter.
During the summer I'd see various hawks hunting those rabbits and rats, and my nephew almost stepped on a huge rattlesnake when he was dove hunting (apex predators are usually signs of a healthy ecosystem, they're scary but good signs).
If the feral hogs ever show up, there's plenty of grain on the ground from dropped heads and spilled grain to feed a bunch of them, which could be both good and bad. There would be plenty of hunting opportunities, lots of experimenting with barbequing and smoked meats, but lots of crop damage.
So overall, growing milo is great for the wildlife if that's what you want (which I do).
On paper, the crop residue from growing wheat is supposed to be more than the residue from a comparable milo crop, but it always seems to me like there is a lot more organic material in a field of milo after harvest. But even if there is less residue, it seems like it's a different sort of residue (I could easily winter dry cows on a field of milo stubble, while wheat stubble wouldn't feed that many cows in the summer).
So, growing milo is more like growing a combination of a cover crop, a cash crop, and a potential forage crop. Wheat is more like a cash crop and a forage/grazing crop.
After saying all that, I still both love and hate growing milo, after every harvest I swear I'm never going to try growing the stuff again, then I eventually decide to try to grow it one more time to see if I've finally figured out how to grow a bumper crop of it.
Since I'm sort of using this blog as a way to keep track of some of my ideas, I'll bore everyone that happens to read it by writing down what I think I need to do differently next year (if anyone that's ever grown milo has any ideas, I'd be tickled to death if you'd leave a comment).
The first thing I think I'd change is my planting rate, it needs to be much higher. All the planting guides for this area claim you only need about 2-3 lbs. of seed (30,000-45,000 seeds), but I think it would do much better if I planted at least twice that amount.
I think I planted it just a little bit too early in the year, mainly because of weed issues. Planting a little bit later might make it easier to control some of the weeds I have in my fields (I'm still thinking about that)
Double-cropping it after wheat harvest might have worked just as good as planting it as a full-season crop earlier in the year (although harvesting a double-cropped field of milo soon enough to follow it with wheat might be a problem).
Harvesting milo with a straight cut header can be a royal pain because of all the dropped heads and the heads that the reel slingshots everywhere. Because of that, if I ever manage to get my milo yields higher, I'm probably going to need to find a row-crop header, and if I ever buy a row-crop header I'd grow corn instead of milo.
Maybe it would be easier to just figure out how to grow mediocre-yielding corn instead of high-yielding milo? I wonder if my head would explode if I tried to harvest corn with a straight-cut header instead of a corn header?