Top 8 Tips for Grain Sorghum Yields


Selecting the highest-performing sorghum hybrids that best match regional conditions and individual farming practices is one of the top ways to achieve high sorghum yields.

Best management practices (BMPs) go a long way to help farmers secure the best yields and return on investment when planting grain sorghum. While there are many factors involved in achieving top yields, the following top tips can help add bushels and profits to produce the best grain sorghum (milo) outcomes:

  1. Hybrid selection –  Choose the best sorghum seed hybrids for regional and individual farming practices and that offer the highest yield potential in their maturity group (early, medium or late maturing). Select grain sorghum hybrids that have some tolerance to sugarcane aphids. Consult with local seed dealers and review results of university Extension and industry association sorghum hybrid trials. Take a look at taller hybrids with top-performing seed genetics.

  2. Seed treatments – Purchase seed professionally treated with a quality combination of fungicides and insecticide to support sorghum stand establishment and get seedlings off to a vigorous start. A seed treatment is a cost-effective risk management tool to protect crops from yield-robbing diseases and pests early in the season and may provide up to 40 days of early season protection against sugarcane aphids.

  3. Soil testing and fertility levels – Use soil sampling to gauge fertility and maintain optimum soil nutrient levels. Restore more nutrients to the soil than were removed during harvest of the previous crop. For example, pre-plant fertilizers may enhance weed control and encourage greater plant growth sooner. When using pre-plant fertilizers, go with the high end of recommended levels for phosphorous, sulfur, potassium and nitrogen.

  4. Nitrogen management – Apply nitrogen based on the yield history of your field and goals for the current growing season. For top return on investment, grain sorghum needs 1.1 pounds of nitrogen per bushel.

  5. Seedbed preparation –  Plant grain sorghum seed in rows 1 inch deep in heavy soils and 1.5 to 2 inches deep in sandy soils, similar to corn. To achieve better stands, use a corrugated roller or cultipacker after seeding. Sorghum yields perform well with no-till and reduced- till planting in warmer climates, where residue helps retain moisture.

  6. Seeding date – Plant seeds between late February and early June, depending on your region. If the grain sorghum planting date occurs after early June, yields are reduced. Soil temperatures should reach 60 to 65 degrees F before sorghum seed is planted.

  7. Pest management – Control weeds, diseases and insects with timely scouting and identification. Management options include sorghum hybrids with partial disease and insect resistance, seed treatments and foliar fungicides and insecticides. Pre-emergence weed control is critical. Post-emergence herbicides to control grasses don’t exist for conventional sorghum varieties, although herbicide-resistant sorghum traits are currently under development. Controlling sugarcane aphids should include a management system that facilitates beneficial insects, including pollinators, as well as appropriate timing of insecticides.

  8. Harvest practices – Harvest sorghum when seed moisture is 20 to 25 percent. Frost makes the grain drier, and seed can be cracked during harvesting. With higher moisture levels, you can run the combine cylinder speed higher than the recommended 750 to 1,300 RPM. Yet, keep in mind that an average loss of 19 to 22 kernels per square foot equals a 1-bushel- per- acre loss.

Bayer Solutions for Sorghum

Bayer offers a broad portfolio of season-long products to help sorghum growers achieve the highest possible yield and grain quality, including:

  • Huskie® herbicide features two modes of action that provide broad-spectrum control of 50 broadleaf weeds, including ALS-resistant biotypes.
  • Sivanto™ Prime insecticide provides excellent control of aphids, including sugarcane aphids, while helping safeguard beneficial insects, preserve the overall health of your plants and protect your crop investment. 
  • Poncho® 600 seed-applied insecticide systemically protects grain sorghum seed and seedlings from a broad spectrum of early- season insect pests.
  • Poncho®/VOTiVO® seed treatment protects young plants from pests during critical early development stages, leading to healthier root development and stronger stands.
  • Baythroid® XL* insecticide has the broadest pyrethroid label available for consistent performance on a broad spectrum of insect pests, with fast knockdown and long residual control.
  • Seed-applied Crop Safety Innovation (CSI™) Safener, an exclusive herbicide safener from Crop Science, changes the ability of the plant to better withstand herbicidal activity, which can lead to increased root growth and plant health.

For information on Bayer’s portfolio of products to help cereal growers maximize yields and protect crops, contact your local Bayer representative.

*Always read and follow label instructions. Not all products are registered for use in every state. Baythroid XL is a Restricted Use Pesticide.


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