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, 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, 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/BiotechSyngenta Delivers Two New Winter Wheat Varieties To Eastern Corn Belt
August 6, 2014
Adding to its portfolio of AgriPro brand wheat varieties, Syngenta introduces SY 007 and SY 474 soft red winter wheat varieties. Read More
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
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unification Approved By Board, Still Awaits Member Approval
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More
FungicidesHelena To Distribute Unique Summit Agro Fungicide
June 29, 2015
RANMAN 400 SC fungicide, the only fungicide with a FRAC group 21 designation, is now part of the innovative Summit Read More
Eric SfiligojIARC Targets 2,4-D In Latest Report
June 29, 2015
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has struck again. Earlier this year in March, this agency of the Read More
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Ma…
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
EquipmentCase IH Launches New Precision Air 5 Series Carts
June 29, 2015
Case IH recently introduced its new Precision Air 5 series air carts, developed to get the most from every plant’s Read More
InsecticidesVestaron Biopesticide Approved In California
June 29, 2015
Vestaron Corporation, a developer of insect control products derived from naturally occurring peptides, today announced that its VST-006330-EP biopesticide has received Read More
InsecticidesValent’s Zeal SC Miticide Receives EPA Approval
June 29, 2015
Valent U.S.A. Corporation announced today that Zeal SC Miticide has been registered by EPA with a new liquid formulation that Read More
Retail FacilitiesUnited Prairie Increased Plant Productivity With Junge …
June 29, 2015
Since 1979, Junge Control continues to provide ag retailers with highly accurate fluid and dry ingredient measuring, mixing and tracking Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
ManagementAsmark Training Center Visit & A Merger No Go
June 25, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj talks about a visit to the Ford B. West Training Center and the failure of the Read More
Crop InputsWinField: Here’s What We’re Seeing So Far T…
June 25, 2015
One of the most important things you can do throughout the season to help increase yield potential is to ensure Read More
Valent, Commodity Classic 2015
Industry NewsValent Garners FFA Honor
June 23, 2015
Valent U.S.A. Corporation today announced it has been named a 5-star member of the National FFA Foundation. This includes an Read More
Nester Ag intern Brad Nester
Crop InputsOhio NRCS’ New Conservation Practice Standard For Gypsu…
June 22, 2015
Ohio farmers wishing to use gypsum to improve soil quality now have access to technical information and possible financial assistance Read More
Industry NewsWest Central Creates New Executive Team
June 22, 2015
West Central Distribution, LLC officially announced the development of an executive team comprised of Dale Engan, chief executive officer; Michael Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Life Sciences Invests In People, Agricultural…
June 22, 2015
In mid-February, the USDA released its new 10-year agriculture projections. While the numbers are new, the theme was consistent. The Read More
Young corn plants
Crop InputsStudy: Crop Rotation Has Positive Impact On Soil Microb…
June 22, 2015
A study authored by Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences assistant professor Lisa Tiemann is Read More
Crop InputsIndiana NRCS Unveils Interim Gypsum Practice Standard
June 22, 2015
Indiana farmers wishing to use gypsum to improve soil quality as part of on-farm conservation programs now have access to Read More
ManagementInside Monsanto’s Bid for Syngenta
June 18, 2015
Monsanto’s possible buyout of Syngenta could send ripples through the retail chain. Learn the latest developments with Retail Week guest Read More