This year sorghum in the Carolina-Virginia region became a much better crop alternative for many growers. Murphy-Brown LLC, the livestock production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, offered good prices for sorghum and growers across the region took them up on it.
Sorghum has a number of additional advantages in the region. Sorghum handles heat and drought better than corn, particularly during pollination. Sorghum also performs well in areas where glyphosate resistance has become a major problem; the crop offers growers the option of using a variety of herbicide chemistries. Sorghum combats nematode infestations and does well on marginal acres. And deer don't seem to like sorghum, especially not as much as they like soybeans; many farmers feel they are practically at war with deer in their soybean fields.
But farmers in the Mid-Atlantic who plant wheat following sorghum can run into a problem. Wheat behind sorghum allows farmers to exploit high grain prices to their fullest but this double-crop option can result in a "yield drag" after wheat gets a shortened growing season. Less soil moisture and lowered nitrogen can hinder wheat as well.
Here are some management tips for planting wheat behind sorghum from the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, that can help growers get the most out of the crops:
•Make sure pre-plant nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur are at the high end of recommended levels.
•Burying sorghum residue with tillage can help reduce allelopathy if present.
•Use glyphosate to kill the sorghum prior to harvest. This will stop regrowth and may help reduce potential allelopathy if present.
•If planting no-till wheat, remember to increase your seeding rate over conventional till rates. For more information, follow these links: North Carolina and Virginia.
•No-till wheat is not common in the South Carolina coastal plains.Strictly monitor wheat tiller development. Growers are encouraged to check tiller density around Growth Stage 25 (usually in late January or early February) and apply an early N split if needed. For more information, follow these links: North Carolina and Virginia.
•South Carolina producers can get the 2012 "Wheat Cheat Sheet" from their local extension office.
•Higher nitrogen rates for wheat at growth stage 30 should be considered to overcome nitrogen tied-up in sorghum residue. Tissue testing to determine optimal spring nitrogen rates is highly recommended for growers in North Carolina and in Virginia..
•Information about wheat nitrogen management in South Carolina can be found the 2012 "Wheat Cheat Sheet," available from their local extension office.
For more information from the United Sorghum Checkoff Program on sorghum best management practices, click here