Pale Sorghum Will Grow Out of It

Many producers across the Carolinas are experimenting with grain sorghum for the first time. NC State Extension corn and sorghum specialist, Dr. Ron Heiniger explains that it’s off to a rough start, mainly due to the weather:

“Here we got all excited about sorghum because it’s a hot weather crop, and guess what? It’s not hot and dry, it’s cool and wet, and that’s not the conditions that sorghum likes. In fact, sorghum does not like temperatures in the evening to be much below 65 degrees, and we’ve had several evenings here lately in the high 50’s and low 60’s.

it’s not a quick growing crop in the first place, and what that means to these growers just getting it in the ground, or been in the ground since the first of June, they’re seeing very slow in coming up, and that’s causing some problems. Weeds aren’t that sensitive to temperatures, and they’re going to jump right out of there, so we’ve got a chance of more weed competition. Certainly we’d like to get this crop moving along here, and take advantage of what moisture we’ve got here before it turns dry. And that’s not happened. So, sorghum, it’s not been a great year to demonstrate how effective sorghum is in this state.

We’ve got some good trials in the field, we’ve got different varieties, hopefully we can identify some that are a little more tolerant of temperature, a little more vigorous in the beginning, we got fertilizer trials, we’ve got seed population, we got fungicides, we’ve got a number of things we’re going to look at in sorghum.

I think we’ll find some better management tools, we certainly need to do that, our tools are sort of out dated and outmoded, and we need to find a better system for planting sorghum, and hopefully get those yields that producers can hang their hat on.”

Well, I would think that the due to the weather, the sorghum stands that are out there especially in pockets that have had the cool and wet temperatures, those fields are a little on the yellow side.

“Oh, yeah, you’re seeing the same things I’m seeing. The crop’s coming, up it’s pale, it’s yellowish, I’m getting calls all the time ‘what in the world’s wrong with my sorghum, I put plenty of nitrogen out there?’ Well, it’s not the nitrogen problem, it’s a root problem. The sorghum just isn’t growing fast enough to reach out there and grab nitrogen, it’s very pale. Sorghum’s very susceptible to sulfur anyway, and so with the slowness of picking up nitrogen the same thing with sulfur it’s just not reaching sulfur. So, it’s a very…some fields look just downright pathetic right now. I can tell growers, give it a little time, these temperatures are going to warm up here, and once we do get a little roots under it, that plant’s going to take off, and this color is going to change, but it is just distressing. I was going to say, just wait, it’s going to grow out of it.

“Yeah, that’s right, that’s what our message needs to be right now. Just wait, if you can tolerate it, go on vacation, I guess, is my only advice. But, it will grow out, those roots will get that nitrogen and sulfur, and it will grow out.”

Anything you’d like to add?

“Those are good points, I mean what we’re seeing, we’ve got a beautiful corn crop, conditions have been ideal, weather’s been beautiful, a little too much rain in some cases. But, growers are seeing some things that they need to look at certainly nutrient in sorghum and stuff. But, patience is the word this year, just be patient and this crop is going to come a long.”

NC State Extension grain 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.