Pioneer Agronomist Offers Planting Recommendations for Carolina Grain Sorghum

Grain sorghum is generating a lot of interest in the Carolinas this growing season, and Dennis McCoy, area agronomist with Pioneer Hi-bred International has a few pointers on growing the crop:

“It is a new crop for them and a lot of questions have come up about how to plant the crop, what is the ideal row width, and whether to plant it no-till or conventional.  The soil temperature needs to be 65 degrees at a two inch level so it’s going to be sometime early May. Of course population is really important to them.”

McCoy offers these population recommendations:

“Generally 100,000 seeds per acre is a proper seeding rate; if it’s a lighter land you can drop back ten or twenty thousand seeds per acre. Or if it’s really good land you can increase that up to twenty thousand seeds per acre.”   

And depending on planting time, row widths can vary, according to McCoy:

“Row width is really important. It can be planted in a wide row with a regular corn planter, though planting with a regular corn planter requires special sorghum plates because it is a small seeded crop. But the row widths can be advantageous. A wider row is helpful in order to get back into the crop with top dressed nitrogen application or possibly an insecticide application.  Or if you are planting later in the season a narrow row width offers a higher yield potential and faster canopy cover, which will help with weed control.” 

In addition, some of last year’s herbicides could interfere with this year’s sorghum production, so check the labels carefully, McCoy advises:

“The herbicide preferences for grain sorghum are slightly different than corn, so it’s important for farmers to check their herbicide rotation restrictions. For example, staple herbicide does have a herbicide restriction of not planting grain sorghum following a staple herbicide application on the previous year’s cotton crop. This can be a concern to a lot of people and is shifting some planting plans as far as putting in their sorghum crops.” 

Some producers were recently notified of having received NRCS funding. McCoy says this could present a problem:

“This late in the season, with the increased acres we are seeing, seed supply is very tight.  I would be checking with my local dealer as soon as possible to make sure I can get a seed supply. I think for most folks the seed suppliers are essentially sold out, but there still is seed available in certain places.”  

Dennis McCoy, Pioneer Hi-bred International agronomist. 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.