Each year we write a blog that looks at what should be grown in the coming year. Last year when I wrote this blog, we were facing high input costs and drought. This makes the sorghum story an easy and compelling one to tell. This winter there has been a lot of moisture – the severe drought has been relieved in most places. Input costs have also come down as grain prices have fallen compared to previous years. What comes to mind right now, however, is something Richard Vanderlip, emeritus professor at Kansas State University (KSU) and one of my mentors, always reminded people regarding sorghum. His quote was “We grow sorghum where we expect stress.” Sorghum fits in, and should be part of, any cropping system outside of the Corn Belt. I am reminded by many of our sorghum growers on the East Coast that their sandy soils are a perfect fit for sorghum, just like the stressful High Plains.

In mid-January I had the opportunity to catch Lucas Haag’s “Economics of Dryland Tillage Systems and Rotations” talk at Cover Your Acres in Oberlin, Kan. One of the things that stood out from his summary of the long-term plots at Tribune is that sorghum had a significant yield advantage over corn. From 2008 to the present, sorghum yields averaged 85 bu/acre while corn yields averaged 60 bu/acre when each crop was the first crop after wheat. In my humble opinion, that’s a pretty compelling argument for including sorghum in your rotation on the High Plains.

This point is reflected in the KSU 2024 Crop Budgets as sorghum in this rotation in Western Kansas has higher returns per acre than corn or soybeans. Cotton looks good in Southwest Kansas if you are willing to risk twice as much money on inputs as you would with sorghum.

Sorghum is back on many acres because of the Double Team® Sorghum Cropping System. Double Team allows sorghum growers to control their grassy weeds with FirstAct®, an over-the-top herbicide application. Adoption of the Double Team system has been very quick, and one thing we have learned is that 95% of the growers who tried Double Team for the first time increased their acres the second year.

If you are not sure what grain sorghum hybrids to plant, Sorghum Partners has two high-yielding, sugarcane aphid (SCA) tolerant hybrids from which to choose. SP 66M16 is a medium-maturing hybrid that fits best out West when under irrigation and in your better fields. SP 43M80 is a tough, drought-tolerant, medium-early hybrid with excellent SCA tolerance and is suited for most dryland fields in the Central and Western Plains. For short-season environments farther north, SP 31A15 and SP 25C10 are great hybrids to consider.

If you have difficulty controlling grass weeds, you should be using Double Team Sorghum in those fields. When paired with FirstAct herbicide, Double Team Sorghum hybrids will help you obtain cleaner fields and bigger yields. If you’re unsure about the return on investment with Double Team Sorghum as opposed to conventional sorghum, try the Double Team ROI Calculator to determine your net return.

By Scott Staggenborg, Ph.D., Director of Product Marketing

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Grassy Weed Reference Chart

Grass Species% Yield ReductionSources
Johnson Grass100%Bean (1991)
Shattercane80-96%Stahlman and Wicks (2000), Original Veseckt et al (1973)
Longpine Sandbur42%Thompson, Dille, and Peterson (2017), Original Fabrizius (1998)
Yellow Foxtail44%Stahlman and Wicks (2000), Original (Feltner et al (1969b))
Barnyardgrass44%Stahlman and Wicks (2000), Original (B.A. Smith(1990))
Prairie Cupgrass42%Stahlman and Wicks (2000), Original (Stahlman and Northam (1992))
Texas and Brown Panicum80%Garcia et al (2019)

Seeding Rate

If planting in 20 inch rows or less always use the higher rates. Increase seeding rate by 20% if planting is delayed significantly to account for lower tillering rates.

Yield GoalSeed/acre
<80 bu/acre< 4,500 lbs/acre25-30,000
80-125 bu/acre4,000-5,600 lbs/acre40-55,000
125+ bu/acre7,000+ lbs/acre55-70,000