Few crops have exploded onto the scene like grain sorghum did in the 2012 growing season. NC Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler is pleased that farmers have another crop available, with a market, that can work in areas where corn doesn't do well, or in parts of the state where double-cropping is a big gamble.
But, Troxler warns, sorghum is not without it's problem areas, weed control being one. Yet, in a weed-infested field, Troxler says he spoke with a producer that still saw decent yields in 2012.
While 2012 wasn't a drought year, it's been said that sorghum will produce well even in years where rainfall is scarce.
“Grain Sorghum has been an interesting crop to watch. We had about 50,000 acres grown in 2012, that is a 10x increase over 2011, so there was quite an explosion. But I think there are some reasons that growers are choosing to plant the crop, it has some real advantages: its drought tolerant, has flexible planting dates, it’s not attractive to deer and you don’t have to have any specialized equipment or costly inputs to plant the crop.
It also can be double cropped. We saw a lot of growers this year that double cropped it with wheat and seemed to do very well, especially in the Piedmont region- we don’t have a lot of double crop opportunities. Soybeans were tried and every now and then we have a good double crop bean crop, but the rule is, its too dry those times of year for good germination, so this may be a real opportunity in the Piedmont.
There are challenges, one of them is there really isn’t adequate weed control, but we had one grower tell us that even though it looked like the weeds took over, it still averaged over 65 bushels.
On another topic of the past years drought, what we know about the lighter sandier soils, they are not good corn land unless they are irrigated. So farmers in the sand hills are interested in growing grain sorghum. Corn is risky for them because of the timing of moisture and heat comes at the time of year of pollination.
The situation that we are in here in NC with the pork and poultry industry, we are a huge net importer of corn, so this is an opportunity for growers in the fields, but also to help our pork and poultry industries with reliable feed source. It’s here to stay. It’s not new or rocket science, its just looking at what works best.”