Fungal Issues in Grain Sorghum Respond Well to Fungicides

Recently at the grain sorghum field day near Rocky Mount, NC State corn & grain sorghum specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger eluded to fungal problems in this year’s sorghum crop. With tight heads of small grain, this is actually a problem that’s been anticipated as the heads have a ‘butterfly net’ effect, catching everything that comes along. Heiniger describes the crop as ‘radioactive’ with fungus:

“It’s interesting when we do these sorghum trials to see which one turns red first!”

This year really put the crop to the test; fungal issues have been rampant due to the weather, and it’s not just sorghum, explains Heiniger:

“We have had these variety trials out this year and they are very interesting to watch which one have had resistance to these fungal diseases and which haven’t. Some of the well known breeders have come in to look at their materials and the reaction they have is “wow- there is a lot of disease here” so that drives home the fact that there are problems here in the state with a lot of crops.”

But, by no means is all lost when it comes to growing sorghum in the humid southeast explains Heiniger:

“The silver lining is that we do have new treatments for these diseases and the fungicides are showing promise. This year we did some testing because farmers were reporting they were getting good yields with the fungicides so we wanted to find the root of that and tested some really good data that showed if we applied a fungicide at the right time, we made almost a 20 bushel difference.”

And the even better news, according to Heiniger is that an application of fungicide more than pays for itself in increased yield:

“The use of a fungicide that gives you an extra 15-20 bushels that is a very attractive return to the use of that material. It’s like in wheat where we found a benefit to using a fungicide.”

NC State corn & grain sorghum specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger.


A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.