Is Grain Sorghum a Good Fit?
Apr 06, 2015
Grain Sorghum demand is up in 2015. This means producers are looking at increasing sorghum acres by as much as 11%. I’m considering the benefits of growing sorghum in western Kentucky compared to other crops -- specifically in place of corn acres. A strong basis in addition to less financial risk is an attractive opportunity this year, but I have a few setbacks and scenarios to consider.
Crop Insurance Coverage. If you are like me, you don’t have a solid history of growing sorghum and the county yield is low. Crop insurance is not a final deciding factor for rotation, but is a strong consideration. Whereas my other rotation options have a solid APH yield, which means I can protect my risk, sorghum will not be fully covered in the case of a loss. For example, I may only be able to protect $200/ac of up to $270/ac of expenses.
Expected yield. This is my largest setback. I know sorghum in my area can yield over 130, but without years of experience, I can only count on 80-100 bushels per acre whereas I may plan for a yield of 150-170 bushels of corn. Plugging my expected price into a generic non-irrigated budget from the University of Arkansas Extension Service, with 150 bushels of corn versus 80 bushels of sorghum, it shows I can make almost $80/acre more growing corn before land costs and management fees. While sorghum gets less revenue compared to corn, it is still almost $30/ac higher than a conservative bean yield of 35 bushels per acre. This makes me comfortable growing sorghum, but I still don’t have the crop insurance protection level I want.
Rotation Benefits. Fields that are prone to droughty conditions and/or weed control issues could benefit from a sorghum rotation. Using similar chemistries to a corn crop without as much crop investment may work well for such a farm.
Planting Delays. Planting progress in the southern states is down significantly from the 5 year average. If it’s difficult to get the intended rotation of corn, sorghum may be the solution. Say atrazine and fertilizer are applied, making a bean crop unsuitable, sorghum may work better in a late planted scenario. Sorghum tolerates dry conditions later in the season better than non-irrigated corn.
Other considerations I haven’t mentioned like potential delivery issues due to moisture play a part, but overall sorghum seems to be a viable opportunity. I expect sorghum demand to stay strong into future years, so this may be a good year to start learning more about potential yields and returns. It’s wise to supply the demand, so we may try some grain sorghum acres and see how it works.
Email Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org