Sorghum has been around for thousands of years, but new hybrid sorghum varieties have raised the bar for farmers and wildlife aficionados. The latest hybrid sorghum varieties produce strong plants, unbeatable disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and, most importantly, mammoth yields similar to corn.
Though many hunters overlook it as a prime food source for wildlife, sorghum’s many benefits make it worth a second look as a food plot crop.
Nigeria, India, Mexico and the United States are the top producers of Sorghum bicolor, or milo, worldwide, more than 66 million tons on 175,000 square miles of land. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, sorghum is the fifth most important cropand the third most important crop in the United States.
Sorghum is high in protein and carbohydrates, and more nutritious than corn. While sorghum is low in fat, its calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and protein levels are notably better than traditional field corn fed to deer and other wildlife.
The inherent qualities and characteristics of the plant are well suited for uses from food and fodder to fiber and fuel. riginally discovered from the hot and arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa, sorghum places prone to drought and arid to semi-arid conditions.
Rick Morris, a regional agronomist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, encourages landowners to choose new hybrid varieties of sorghum instead of its predecessors.
“Newer varieties provide advanced disease resistance, seed treatment for using herbicides, improved germination rates, and a much better yield,” Morris said. “Research on recent sorghum varieties shows the yields will be twice as good as they were 10 years ago.”
Companies including Monsanto and DuPont work to develop new, better growing strains of sorghum each year for commercial farmers. Landowners wanting to provide abundant food and cover for wildlife can benefit from millions of dollars in crop research these companies perform annually.
“Although landowners won’t harvest sorghum planted for wildlife, more food in a given area will feed more wildlife,” said Morris. “A high-quality sorghum stand will provide an added benefit to the entire food chain with increased cover and insects, and improved habitat overall.”
Since sorghum is a member of the grass family, the use of wide spectrum herbicides has always posed a problem for sorghum grower especially during spring and early summer when conditions are ideal for sorghum. But new hybrids have bridged this problem with flying colors.
“The main problem with growing sorghum is grass and weed competition during the early stages of growth,” said Morris. “The new hybrid varieties are treated with a seed coating called Concep (by Syngenta) that allows the farmer to apply conventional herbicide treatments during pre-plant and after emergence. When conventionally planting sorghum sites without pre-emergent treatments, grasses and weeds will flourish, absorbing all of the fertilizer before the sorghum plants ever get a chance to use it.”
Sorghum is susceptible to competition at an early age, but an established stand of sorghum can withstand periods of drought. This persistent plant will go dormant when water is scarce and start growing again after a rain, making it a great choice for dry, well-drained sites.
According to Morris, sorghum in the southeastern United States responds best to ranges between 5.8 and 6.2. Since forest and unimproved food plots typically have acidic soils, landowners can expect success with sorghum varieties on their plots.
Landowners should correct within the recommended range prior to planting. utrients calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur potassium are important to grow a successful crop. Always collect soil tests well in advance to determine soil amendments .
Sorghum is planted in the spring and early summer when soil temperatures are above 60 degrees. Most new varieties take 100 to 130 days to fully mature.
Plant sorghum in a seedbed with a pre-emergent herbicide treatment or use a “no-till” method through a thatch barrier from a prior cover crop. Seeds should not be planted any deeper than one inch for quality germination and full emergence. — Jeff Burleson
NWTF Super Sorghum
The NWTF Super Sorghum Food Plot Mix is a collection of forage sorghum, hybrid grain sorghum and foxtail millet with heights ranging from 2 to 12 feet.
The diverse assortment of sorghums and millet was designed specifically to provide a high-energy food supply through an extended period and resist damage caused by deer. Whether broadcast or drilled, plant 7 to 8 pounds of seed per acre.
Order it at www.OutdoorDealHound.com.