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Good Inaugural Year for Grain Sorghum in the Carolinas

As we’ve discusses all week, grain sorghum has taken the southeast by storm, but Dr. Ron Heiniger, NC State Extension Corn & Sorghum specialist says that while things turned out all right this year, they got off to a very slow start for some producers:

“It did come with some negative issues, some we anticipated and some we didn’t. One was the cool weather early in the season, it really slowed the emergence and the early growth of this crop. We have had some herbicide damage show up because of that, we had growers concerned about the crop turning purple. Growers were really concerned if they had done the right thing back in late May as we were coming through that cooler weather period. On the coast with sandy soils, this crop was slow in picking up nutrients. I think in most part that crop came out of it, but didn’t yield as well as we would have liked.”

And while earworm and bird damage to sorghum fields was anticipated by Heiniger and his team, there was one issue, late in the season that took them all by surprise:

“The biggest one I didn’t anticipate and the one that has gotten the most attention from growers is the issue of planting wheat behind sorghum, with potential decreases in wheat yields or at least the problems with early wheat growth due to allelopathy caused by compounds from the sorghum. Its an issue that we didn’t really foresee and certainly wheat has been grown behind sorghum in the Midwest, we just didn’t foresee this issue. But there was some investigation and we got some information from the mid west to tell our growers that they ought to be concerned about this. And unfortunately it came late after they already planted.”

So, has Heiniger heard any producers say ‘no, no! Never again!”?

“I haven’t heard anyone say they wont do it again.”

With an outstanding corn year this year, did Heiniger hear a producer that grew sorghum wish he’d grown corn:

“No, I haven’t heard anyone say they were sorry they planted sorghum. It was a good corn year, and a lot of those on good soil went for corn. But some of the sandier soils were targeted for sorghum and they gave the impression they did as well on the sorghum as they would have with corn.”

While, all in all, Heiniger says it was a good year for grain sorghum, there’s more work to be done:

“It’s always the case when you are trying something new. There are always things that you don’t know that come up and present a potential problem.”

NC State Corn & Sorghum Specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger. Next week we’ll talk about flax as an alternative crop in the Carolinas. For more on our series on alternative crops, click here. 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.