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Sorghum Production in Mississippi

Field of sorghumMississippi growers planted 13,000 acres of grain sorghum in 2009. Mississippi’s grain sorghum acreage has fluctuated in recent years ranging from this year’s low to 145,000 acres in 2007. During the past 10-20 years, Mississippi’s growers plant about 60,000-70,000 acres of grain sorghum.

Grain sorghum can serve as a more drought tolerant crop than either corn or soybeans for Mississippi producers. Thus, sorghum’s productivity potential is relatively stable, compared to alternative crops, particularly when grown on heavy clay or droughty soils. Furthermore, sorghum will produce tremendous agronomic benefits when utilized in a crop rotation system with soybeans or cotton.

Sorghum, soybeans and cotton grown in rotation systems consistently improve crop yields 10-20 percent compared to continuous cropping systems. Crop rotations normally improve yields because many weed, insect, nematode and disease problems build up when growing the same crop and management system every year. Crop rotation systems effectively eliminate many of these cumulative effects, preventing problems, reducing inputs, raising yields and increasing profitability. Crop rotation allows producers to solve predominant pest problems, including diseases, weeds, nematodes and insects, by simply switching crops, rather than implementing costly inputs.

Sorghum also produces substantial long-term crop rotation benefits by improving soil physical properties. Sorghum produces about three times more plant residue than cotton or soybeans. This plant's debris is recycled into the soil as organic matter. Increasing soil organic matter improves soil-properties conducive to plant growth, including increasing the proportion of large soil aggregates, increasing soil-water infiltration and water holding capacity. Increasing soil organic matter content improves soil tilth and structure, which reduces soil crusting and water erosion, and increases soil-water infiltration and soil water and nutrient holding capacity. These soil physical improvements not only improve plant growth, but may also reduce environmental pollution, by reducing runoff and erosion. These improvements also reduce the need for expensive annual deep tillage operations and irrigation.

Numerous other beneficial effects of crop rotation have been reported, including improvements in soil fertility, soil moisture, soil microbes, and phytotoxic compounds and/or growth promoting substances originating from crop residues. A crop rotation system also spreads risk in case of unpredictable crop-specific problems. Growers can maintain these benefits by continuing to rotate crops on a yearly basis.

Chemical herbicide options, including herbicide-resistance technology, are more limited for sorghum weed control, relative to other primary crops, such as corn, soybeans and cotton. This makes controlling weeds more difficult when growing sorghum in some fields, particularly those infested with Johnsongrass or abundant annual grass species, compared to other crops.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some good grain sorghum hybrids?
When is the optimum time to plant grain sorghum?
What is the optimum seeding rate for grain sorghum?
Which crop is better suited: grain sorghum or corn?
When should I irrigate grain sorghum?
Is it legal to hunt ducks over milo?
What are the growth stages for grain sorghum?

Publications

MSUcares Grains publications
Weed Control Guidelines - Sorghum
P1757 Insect Management in Grain Sorghum
IS1331 Sorghum Midge Control
Grain Sorghum Hybrid Trials, 2013

Other Sorghum Information

Agronomy Notes
Mississippi Crop Situation Newsletter
2001 Grain Sorghum Variety Trial
The National Sweet Sorghum Producers and Processors Association
Production of Sweet Sorghum for Syrup in Kentucky
Processing Sweet Sorghum for Syrup (University of Kentucky)
Sweet Sorghum Culture and Syrup Production (Auburn University)
University of Arkansas Performance Tests

Grain Sorghum Production Handbook (Kansas State University)
Sweet Sorghum Seed Variety Descriptions
Sweet Sorghum Seed Order Form
How a Sorghum Plant Develops (Kansas State University)
Managing Corn and Grain Sorghum Insect Pests (LSU)