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Grain Sorghum Plantings Up in Response to Drought

12 July 2012

US - Texas grain sorghum plantings are up by about 750,000 acres over last year due to several factors, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.

The US Department of Agriculture’s planted acreage report released June 29 projected planted acreage at 2.3 million acres, according to Dr Calvin Trostle, AgriLife Extension agronomist, Lubbock.

“There’s a couple of things that pulled the acreage back up,” Dr Trostle said. “Grain sorghum prices, which are tied to corn, remain strong. Also, the drought of 2011 reminded some people that corn has more risk involved than sorghum.”

Corn is a riskier crop than sorghum during a drought for a couple of reasons, he said. One, sorghum is more drought tolerant, and more likely to produce a crop when there is limited rainfall or irrigation capacity.

Another risk for corn that sorghum doesn’t have is aflatoxin development during dry weather, he said.

“Aflatoxin is just not an issue in grain sorghum the way it is in corn,” Dr Trostle said.

Dr Trostle expected grain sorghum yields to be “fairly good” across Texas. He also noted that the US Department of Agriculture report did not likely take into account recent re-plantings after hailed-out cotton. In the South Plains region, hail-out re-plantings alone could account for another 200,000 acres planted.

“As far as the High Plains area, we have a fair amount of sorghum that was planted in the last two weeks,” he said. “Some of that was primary crop sorghum, with a fair amount of acreage being put in after failed cotton.”

Trostle said on July 9 there was still sorghum being planted in the High Plains, which can succeed even at such a late date, though the grower has to select a hybrid with a short maturity date.

“I had a call just this morning from a producer who told me that his cotton was just 1 inch to two inches tall. He was debating just letting it go. I told him I don’t think it has a prayer of making anything he’d want to harvest. So why not just get rid of it, and put a short-season sorghum in? You’ll have some stubble out there for next year’s cotton crop, and the likelihood of growing something there with some cash income.”

Sorghum plantings in Texas have fluctuated greatly over the last 10 to 20 years, Dr Trostle said. There have been some years where plantings dropped below two million acres, and others when it was in the range of three to four million acres.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website.

Further Reading

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