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Double-Crop Grain Sorghum Has Place in NC Agriculture

A great deal of time, effort and now anticipation has gone into the first year of major grain sorghum acreage in North Carolina. The early planted, full-season crop is just coming out of the field according to NC State sorghum specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger:

“We have made some good progress over the past week. With the warm weather there has been a pretty good start on the crop. We are hearing yields of 50-120 bushels. I really think the crop will get better as we go along and the later sorghum will be better than the early, it got past that hot spell in the summer a bit easier.”

While early test weights have been a bit of a disappointment, Heiniger explains that late rains may be the culprit:

“Test weights have been lower than what we would like, running from 52 to 54, where it should normally be 56 or higher. It’s a factor of both packing density and the weight of the seed itself. Part of this problem is that the late rains increased the seed size, but the seed density is still normal, so we have bigger seeds that weigh less. It’s like packing marbles rather than bb’s.”

Literally, as a ‘see what happens’ experiment, a few experimental sorghum plots were planted behind early harvested corn, and Heiniger says the results have been surprising:

“They look really good. We will have a field day in Thursday at 4:30 in the Rocky Mount area. We will look at this sorghum that was planted after corn. We also have some double planted corn so we can compare the two. I think we will see some 100+ bushels out of that late planted sorghum.”

And it’s looking more and more like double-crop sorghum will have a place in North Carolina’s production system:

“Our experience this year says that the double crop sorghum idea really has merit here.”

Of course, one of the problems with double-cropping sorghum behind longer season summer crops like corn, is that sorghum has very little cold tolerance according to Heiniger:

“Sorghum is a warm season crop. If we get temperatures below 35 degrees for a few days we will see that crop start to turn color. If it gets below 32, its basically over with.”

A very different physiological animal from winter wheat:

“Its unlike wheat that would take below freezing for several hours in an evening before taking any damage. For sorghum even an hour at freezing temperatures will kill it.”

NC State Extension sorghum specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.