Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sorghum-Sudangrass Update after Three Weeks

In the past, when I've grown sorghum-sudangrass it's usually turned hot or dry soon after I've planted it. Under those conditions, it still grows, but if it gets too dry or hot it will just sit there waiting for moisture, then it will have a sudden burst of growth.  That tendency for a burst of growth after a little rain has saved me a couple of times during drought years when I was able to finally cut it for hay late in the summer or early in the fall after toughing it out over a long summer while worrying about having enough hay to get through winter.  You still need to worry about nitrate levels, etc. during a drought, so do your homework if you plan on trying to plant something like sorghum-sudangrass.

This summer has been a little different compared to previous summers because it's been a little less hot, and we've had a little bit more rain, plus I think my organic matter (OM) levels are finally starting to increase a little in the cropland due to switching to no-till and growing crops like grain sorghum and sorghum-sudangrass.  All of that has given me a better stand of sorghum-sudangrass this summer than I've seen before. 

I planted this field on July 22 and approximately 3 weeks after emergence, it is already almost 24" tall, seems to be a relatively uniform stand across the field, and the only fertilizer I've applied is what I top dressed on the wheat back in late-February.  Right now, it looks like sorghum-sudangrass with it's deeper and denser roots might be much better at scavenging nitrogen than crabgrass is (it figures, since I just shot my mouth off about how great crabgrass was).  

For $12-13 per acre for seed, sorghum-sudangrass might work even better than crabgrass if I ever tried any of the grand plans for the future I talked about in the previous post, it probably catches much more than $12 worth of NPK, and in the long run it might help create more OM.  Plus, a field of sorghum-sudangrass is a little bit more impressive and looks like I'm a honest-to-goodness farmer with a honest-to-goodness plan compared to just growing a field of volunteer crabgrass.

Since photos seem to help me remember how things looked when they were growing, I took a series of photos from different positions.  For comparison, this is also where I took my wheat growth pictures back in April and May.
Looking South East - Haygrazer 21 Days After Emergence
Looking South - Haygrazer 21 Days After Emergence
Looking West - Haygrazer 21 Days After Emergence

At this point, seeing how good this field of sorghum-sudangrass is growing, it's getting more and more tempting to cut this field for hay sometime in the next month or so instead of grazing the winter-killed forage over the winter, but so far I'm resisting that urge.  In the long run, it would be much better to treat this sorghum-sudangrass as a cover-crop and/or graze it, leaving all the organic material on the field instead of baling it and taking it off of the field.  

But, even though I know all the benefits of cover cropping, every time I drive by, I still have to keep telling myself,  I. MUST. NOT. BALE. THIS. FIELD.   It's a little tougher than I thought it would be to feed the soil instead of baling it for hay.

So, if you get the chance, try and remind me not to bale this field and that I should stick to my original plan.
Driving South on the old oil field road along the property line - Haygrazer 21 Days After Emergence

In the last photo, you can see the neighbor's field (gosh, that dirt  in the road and field sure looks red, doesn't it?).   Nowadays, I'd much rather pull a drill and plant something, than pull a plow, disc, or cultivator over a field.

For the amount of money I used to spend on fuel pulling tillage implements, I could have planted a heck of a lot of different cover crops and I could have fed a lot of cattle.


  1. Stick to your guns. Don't bale that field!

    Although Montana more or less has the nickname, your part of the world also should share "Big Sky Country". You just can't see that far very often in my neck of the woods.

    1. Just don't forget to remind me again about not baling that field in about a month.

      The last time I was in Iowa (driving across the state from southern Nebraska to NE Iowa) a lot of it seemed more like here than the parts that seemed different. More trees in spots, more hills in spots, more corn fields, better roads, but familiar enough that I could see myself living there.

      The part of Iowa I saw seemed like it was a little different than OK, but was awful similar at the same time.

  2. Assuming you did most of your traveling on Interstate 80 and north, I would agree that it is more like Oklahoma than it is to the southern part of the state south of Interstate 80. Down in the southern half of the state where I live, it is rolling hills, lots of timbered valleys and streams. Because of this, that is why our land values are about half price compared to those along interstate 80 and north.