Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Grain Sorghum Update Along With Some Cover Cropping Problems and Thoughts

I had high hopes for the grain sorghum I planted back in late-April, I had a lot of crop residue on the soil surface from grazing the cover crop of sorghum-sudangrass I'd planted last summer, I finally had the weeds controlled, there should have been more than enough fertility to get some decent yields, the planter was setup almost perfect, and I had good soil conditions at planting.

Then it started raining and raining and raining.  The combination of a lot of overcast days, cooler than usual temperatures in May, and all that extra moisture seems to have really impacted my field of grain sorghum more than I thought it would have.  All those conditions made everything grow much slower than normal, root systems weren't developed as deep as they should have been, and I'm guessing that I lost a significant amount of nitrogen.
Grain sorghum starting to dry down with way too many volunteer sorghum "weeds"
The major problem I have is a bunch of volunteer sorghum-sudangrass coming up all over the field.     Sorghum-sudangrass is a hybrid which means it really isn't supposed to produce viable seed, so I probably actually have a bunch of different grasses growing that are a combination of the different parents to the hybrid which would be sort of interesting if it wasn't messing up my grain sorghum field. 

The volunteer sorghum-sudangrass blended into the grain sorghum and wasn't obvious until the grain sorghum was a couple of feet tall.  In the worst spots, it looks almost like I planted a solid stand of sorghum-sudangrass, and of course those spots are right along the road so everyone that drives by can see how messed up my weed control was.  I'm not even sure if I can combine those weedier spots, or whether I'd be better off just mowing or baling those spots.

The pre-emergent herbicide I used is supposed to control grasses like volunteer sorghum, but with all the rain it didn't seem to control it very good this summer.  Grasses are difficult to control in a grain sorghum crop, and from what I know sorghums are almost impossible to control in grain sorghum especially once they get much above a few inches tall and it doesn't help that you can't tell them apart from the grain sorghum until they're about 2 foot tall.

The lesson learned is that the sorghum-sudangrass should have either been grazed or cut for hay in late-summer to make double sure there was no chance of any of it producing any amount of seed.  Better yet, don't use something like sorghum-sudangrass as a cover crop if you're planning on planting grain sorghum the following year.

I've been wondering if I'd have an even bigger weedy mess out there if I'd planted a combination of sorghum-sudangrass, sunflowers, and cowpeas, then grazed it in the same way over the winter. 

In about mid-September, I should hopefully be combining this field, so stay tuned for updates on how frustrating it can be to combine a mixture of grain sorghum and volunteer sorghum-sudangrass,  how much money I either make or lose growing grain sorghum, and whether I decide to ever grow grain sorghum again.


  1. Seeing your pasture crop photos causes me to realize just how stunningly ignorant on farming I am.

    Truly, farming is a spectator sport, as is ranching. People who come from families that have no more association with crops than mowing the lawn and who last owned a cow when AEthered was King of England feel free to opine on what you ought to do, when there is truly a lot to it. I think, outside of sports and war, it's the only occupation that features that.

    1. Hopefully, I'm explaining what I'm doing well enough that you will be a little less ignorant about farming.

      The analogy comparing farming to sports or warfare is pretty close to being true. Until you've been punched in the face, you shouldn't give advice to a boxer about what he needs to do to win a fight.