Traditional Winter Crop Farmers Embrace Grain Sorghum: A Promising Venture Despite Challenging ConditionsJune 6, 2023
Traditional winter crop farmers, Gary and Tom Weston, ventured into grain sorghum for the first time in 2022. Despite facing a wet winter and spring that hindered their usual planting routine, their decision to explore sorghum was guided by their trusted agronomist, David Strahorn from Delta Agribusiness in Dubbo.
“We traditionally grow about 3,600 ha of winter crops, but due to the wet winter/spring we were unable to get everything planted. On the advice of our agronomist David Strahorn from Delta Agribusiness in Dubbo, we decided to plant a paddock of sorghum & David suggested Viper IG as we were looking for a quick variety for our lighter/redder soils” states Gary. On October 29, the Westons used a Boss air seeder on 66 cm row spacing to sow Viper IG at a rate of 3 kg/ha. Unfortunately, within two days of planting, the area received an unexpected 90 mm of rain, leading to compromised germination and soil compaction.
To support the growth of the sorghum crop, the Westons applied 52 kg/ha of MAP and 150 kg/ha of urea. A pre and post-sowing application of a half-rate of Atrazine & Dual Gold was used. The crop also received an insecticide on December 24th, to control a heliothis infestation.
Unfortunately, the weather conditions throughout the season posed significant challenges for the Westons. Following Christmas, the region experienced a severe lack of rainfall, resulting in reduced potential yields. Despite these adversities, the Westons expressed satisfaction with the performance of the Viper IG variety. The crop yielded up to 3.6 t/ha in some areas and averaged 2.0 t/ha overall. Considering the challenging start, which included heavy rainfall soon after planting and insufficient precipitation during grain fill, the results were commendable.
One notable advantage of the Viper IG sorghum variety was its rapid growth, enabling the Westons to complete the entire growing cycle in just four months. Although they did not utilize the igrowth® technology (allowing for over-the-top (OTT) applications of Imidazolinone herbicides), Gary Weston acknowledged its potential as an effective OTT solution. The limited tillering characteristics of the crop played a significant role in withstanding the adverse conditions during the later stages of growth. The crop’s quality was exceptional, with all sorghum harvested classified as sorghum 1 (SOR).
Despite being a less than ideal paddock due to variable soil types, Gary and Tom Weston managed to successfully plant sorghum, thanks to their agronomist’s advice and Viper IG’s adaptability. They were able to capitalize on the high commodity price for sorghum and received $395/t. Their experience serves as an insight for other farmers considering diversifying their crop choices. The Westons’ journey highlights the resilience and potential of grain sorghum cultivation, even in challenging circumstances. With careful planning, appropriate agronomic practice and the selection of suitable varieties, farmers can explore new opportunities and achieve remarkable results.