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Grain Sorghum a Learning Curve, but Worth It

Lance Herndon began growing sorghum on his farm near Parkton, NC for a variety of reasons:

“I had initial interest because my father-in-law had seen the crop grown up in the Piedmont. He thought I might be able to find a market because a lot of the land on our farm would be well suited, as its not suited for corn. A few weeks later we had some contact with extension and found out that Murhphy-Brown wanted to start a pilot program. I was excited to participate in that.”

Herndon says he’s experimented with both full season and double crop:

“We did that the first year so that we could find out how the crop would do behind wheat. It was a success. The first pilot year, the weather actually tended to help the later planted sorghum.”

While not as management intensive as some crops, sorghum isn’t management free, either explains Herndon:

“To make it a worthwhile crop, it needs timely applications of herbicides, fertilizer, and needs to be planted at the right population.”

Herndon has grown as many as 600 acres with yields as high as 77 bu/a.

As far as moisture content at harvest, Herndon says through trial and error, he’s found a good solution:

“We try to harvest around 17-20% moisture. That is where  I have found the best results. I needed to see what the cost was for dry down and also what worked well with my combine. Anything over 22% was much more difficult.”

And Murphy-Brown has adjusted their dockage fees to accommodate small and medium sized producers:

“They adjusted the dry down so it would be workable for a farm my size. We just don’t have the infrastructure or the number of acres required to be able to invest in drying equipment. The crop needs to be harvested with moisture and therefore delivered very quickly.”

With all that being said, Herndon says sorghum is on his farm to stay:

“It’s going to be a mainstay in our rotation because of the land we are farming. It wont be the crop for your very best land, but it’s a good fit. As long as the weather works and we do our part with management.”

Parkton, NC producer, Lance Herndon.'

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.