Why Sorghum Over Corn?

Corn is giving way to sorghum as a silage crop across the country as producers discover that forage sorghum produces similar yields to corn with 30 percent to 50 percent less water, which in some irrigated areas of the West has become a scarce commodity and highly valued.

According to independent research data published in 2001 (Table 1), irrigated forage sorghums, depending upon type, will yield 1.75 to 2.5 tons of biomass per 1 inch of irrigation water, while corn produces less than 1.0 ton per inch of water applied. With rising energy costs and water conservation concerns across the U.S., sorghum with its high water use efficiency (WUE) offers a viable economic and sustainable alternative to corn.

“The drought and heat tolerance makes sorghum a logical choice for many areas of the country,” says Ricky Rice, Advanta US forage specialist and sales manager. “We’ve seen tremendous sales growth in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states, as well as the Midwest, which traditionally has been dominated by corn for silage.”

“We are seeing Advanta’s hybrid forage sorghums replacing corn silage on highly productive soils because yields and nutritional value are comparable at a much lower cost to the producer,” he continues.

“Sorghums have a very large and extensive root system capable of reaching soil profile depths of over five feet (Table 2), which enables the sorghum plant to find water when other crops like corn, cannot,” says Rice.

A recent study conducted by Texas AgriLife Extension indicated that if producers in the Texas Panhandle converted irrigated corn silage acreage to a sorghum-based system, the region could save over 400,000 acre inches of water annually. This would lower the cost of irrigation pumping by $2.8 million. Likewise, a Regional Water Plan prepared for the Texas Panhandle Water Planning Group in Amarillo, TX, found that the water savings over 50 years for 524,243 acres spread over 21 counties in the Texas Panhandle would amount to 7.36 million acre-feet of water if irrigated corn acreage were converted to irrigated sorghum. That’s an average, 147,200 acre-feet saved per year — about 48 billion gallons (182 billion liters) per year.

“These WUE benefits are not unique to Texas,” Rice says. “Sorghum can help any producer in almost any region of the US reduce production costs without sacrificing tonnage or forage nutritional quality.”

Even where irrigation is not limiting, sorghum remains a more economical choice over corn because similar biomass yields and forage quality can be produced using much less water, with reduced energy and labor costs. Forage sorghum used for animal feed stocks provides an attractive alternative to corn-based systems from both a production and water conservation standpoint in both dryland and irrigated production systems.

Sorghums tolerate significant moisture stress and will resume vegetative growth after drought-induced dormancy. Sorghum leaves are generally smooth and covered with a waxy substance called “bloom” that reduces water loss. Additionally, sorghum leaves have a very high number of stomates (openings for uptake of carbon dioxide and release of oxygen and water). Under water stress the leaves will roll along the midrib reducing leaf surface area, keeping the plant from losing water and wilting.

(Source: Advanta)

Leave a Reply

Seed/Biotech Stories

Seed/BiotechWater Optimized Seed Flowing Freely
April 1, 2014
As the demand for ag to diminish its water use while maintaining high yields and crop quality increases, three companies are leading the movement to grow more with less water. Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer Applies For Seed Treatment That Protects Against Sudden Death Syndrome
February 26, 2014
If approved, ILeVO seed treatment would be the first product to provide breakthrough protection for soybean seedlings from the soil borne pathogen Fusarium virguliforme, the fungus that causes SDS. Read More
Seed/BiotechSeed Still Central
November 1, 2013
Advancing genetics continue to make seed the crop variable that calls the shots for the season. Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience, Northstar Agri Industries Launch New Canola Hybrid
October 16, 2013
Northstar Agri Industries and Bayer CropScience have announced the addition of the InVigor L252 hybrid to the Northstar Star Growers High Oil Contract. Read More

Trending Articles

Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More
EquipmentGPS: 25 Years And Still Growing
June 2, 2014
The evolution of global positioning systems applications in agriculture remains ongoing as the technology hits a notable milestone. Read More

Latest News

CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More
EquipmentKinze, Raven Team Up On 4900 Planter Monitor
July 23, 2014
Kinze Manufacturing announces a partnership with Raven Industries to develop a standalone monitor solution for the Kinze 4900 series planter. With this new Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Continues To Confuse As Growers Await USD…
July 23, 2014
The new five-year Farm Bill eliminates many of the direct payments previously payed to growers and could benefit from USDA clarification, reports a Toledo Blade columnist. Read More
EquipmentPrecisionAg.com Relaunches With Responsive Design For M…
July 22, 2014
PrecisionAg, the worldwide leader in precision agriculture information and analysis, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, PrecisionAg.com. Read More
FungicidesEPA OKs Two Willowood Fungicides
July 21, 2014
The EPA has approved Willowood Azoxy 2SC and Willowood AzoxyProp Xtra. two widely used broad spectrum, preventative fungicides with systemic and curative properties. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learning Fast As UAVs Take Off
July 17, 2014
Farmers and others interested in how UAVs can be used in agricultural applications were able to learn more about the technology during the recent Precision Aerial Ag Show. Read More
CropLife 100Bobby Knight, Richard Petty To Highlight Ag PhD Field D…
July 17, 2014
Attendees at the July 24 Ag PhD Field Day at Hefty Farms will learn about the latest agricultural technologies, and get a chance to meet legendary sports figures Bobby Knight and Richard Petty. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
July 17, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
A finished Willmar 16-ton side-shooting tender.
TendersNew Production Facility Helps Willmar
July 17, 2014
In 1963, a group of businessmen started Willmar. Today, a half-century later, the company is one of the ag industry’s longest-running brands. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Sells Carbon Credits To Chevrolet, Donate…
July 17, 2014
CF Industries has completed the sale of a large block of carbon reduction credits to Chevrolet, and will donate the net proceeds of $600,000 to the National FFA Foundation. Read More
CropLife 100Grainland Cooperative, Minier Cooperative Grain To Merg…
July 17, 2014
The shareholders of Grainland Cooperative and Minier Cooperative Grain Co. approved a merger of company operations effective August 1, 2014. Read More
ManagementStudy: Drought Costing California Billions
July 17, 2014
A new study has found the drought has cost the state $2.2 billion, primarily in lost farm revenue and wages. Read More