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Late Planting with Grain Sorghum Could Provide Opportunity
USAgNet - 05/30/2019

Grain sorghum is one crop option that can provide opportunity to growers in regions impacted by historically adverse weather during the 2019 planting season. As wet conditions persist for farmers across the U.S., producers calculating options as major crop plant deadlines loom need to keep the following considerations in mind when planting grain sorghum.

Grain sorghum can typically be planted later than other crops, and sorghum is a lower risk option, specifically as it relates to seed costs. For example, sorghum seed typically costs $9-$18 per acre depending on seeding rate, while corn seed typically costs $55-$110 an acre depending on seeding rate and traits. Harvest costs are often lower, as well.

"Grain sorghum provides a number of benefits to growers as we enter a replant and late/prevent plant time period for the 2019 growing season," said Brent Bean, Sorghum Checkoff agronomist, Ph.D. "There is typically a yield benefit for soybeans, cotton and corn when planted after sorghum. In addition, its root system is often able to penetrate compacted soils and can reduce diseases and nematodes that plague other crops."

From a demand standpoint, despite ongoing negotiations and tariff restrictions with China, the U.S. has sold multiple vessels to China in the last month. NSP CEO Tim Lust said this demand and market signals offer optimism for global feed grain needs like sorghum.

"Despite trade uncertainty, demand for feed grain remains strong across the globe," Lust said. "Furthermore, anticipated feed grain shortages from areas impacted by adverse planting weather will create significant localized demand for additional starch sources like sorghum. We continue to receive feedback from ethanol plants and other end-users about the need to fill gaps in supply this winter. Some have already posted sorghum bids, and others are strongly considering doing so."

Growers should also consider that current guidance from USDA shows in order to collect a Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payment, farmers must plant a program crop or alfalfa. Final plant dates for crop insurance vary by region, but growers can contact their local insurance agent for insurance coverage and options. Sorghum also works well as a cover behind prevented planting, and resources on this provision are available from the USDA Risk Management Agency.

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