Updated from the November ‘Texas Sorghum Insider’ (Texas Grain Sorghum Assn.)
Prospects for grain sorghum acreage in Texas in 2021 are more favorable than the past several years. Pricing is up with adjustments relative to Dec21 corn ($4.18/bu as of this writing). Depending on your Texas location this puts the hundredweight price in the range of $8.00/cwt and even $9.00/cwt near the Texas Gulf Coast. Of course, there is a lot that can happen between now and planting time let alone harvest time in 2021.
These prospects for committing now to acres and bushels may seem far-fetched for grain sorghum, particularly for regions of Texas that plant later. Growers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and coastal Texas are closer to planting (less than eight weeks away in the Lower Rio Grande Valley). Some of that grain sorghum will be harvested and on its way to market while the last of the summer’s grain sorghum crop is just being planted in the lower Texas High Plains.
Keep in mind where your profit margins may settle on this crop that is relatively less costly to produce.
A pitfall to avoid, however, for grain sorghum production is going too far into the too-common low-input mentality for grain sorghum production. For too many producers, this in fact approaches a no-input mentality especially in drier regions. Or at least minimal inputs. This applies foremost to:
- Nitrogen (N) fertilizer. Consider a soil test for N to better pin your N requirement to your yield goal. This helps you avoid being significantly undernourished with N—or applying more than needed and thus potentially losing the N from the cropping system with no return. Increasingly, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension encourages farmers to sample to 24” for nitrate-nitrogen (the paired 6-24” or 12-24” portion is analyzed inexpensively only for nitrate-nitrogen. (Major farming states like Kansas and North Dakota now recommend all soil sampling to 24” depth. This is driven by the recognition that capturing deeper soil N is efficient and economical.)
- P fertilizer. Like nitrogen the yield response curves for grain sorghum to P are well developed in Texas. (See the accompanying Texas Row Crops Newsletter item on phosphorus placement and availability.)
♦ For both N and P consider the information, soil testing, and other resources of the Texas A&M AgriLife Soil Testing lab, http://soiltesting.tamu.edu This includes understanding how to use the “Profile Soil Sample Information Form,” http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/files/profilesoil.pdf If submitting eight or more samples there is a $2 per sample discount for standard soil samples as well as profile N soil samples. If using the Volume Profile Soil Sample form (see figure), the combined savings makes this test $4 less per paired soil sample (22% savings).
Figure 1. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension soil testing lab Volume Profile Soil Sample Form. Most farmers combine tests #1 (Routine Analysis, $10 in volume) and #11 (Nitrate-N only, $4 in volume).
- Willingness to spray for insects like headworms, stink bug, or sugarcane aphid when economic thresholds suggest you should, etc.
Check Regional Pricing with Sorghum Grain Dealers
If you believe grain sorghum likely has a significant portion of your 2021 cropping, I encourage you to talk with grain dealers in your area. See what they can offer on 2021 grain sorghum. There may be some deals out there that would surprise you.
Dr. Calvin Trostle, Extension Agronomy, TAMU Dept. of Soil & Crop Sciences, Lubbock, (806) 746-6101, firstname.lastname@example.org