Voices of Experience: Hold Disease for Sorghum Yield Boost
John M. and Justin Williams say it’s no secret that better sorghum disease management helped their third-generation farm win the National Sorghum Producers 2013 Non-Irrigated Bin Buster Award and two first-place state sorghum yield awards.
Intensive input management earned John a winning sorghum yield of 86.35 bushels in White County, Ill. His son Justin used the same tactics to win two first-place state rankings in Hamilton County: a first-place 165.58-bushel yield in the no-till, non-irrigated division, and a first-place 169.23-bushel yield in the mulch, no-till, non-irrigated division.
Growers know raising high-yielding sorghum takes the right combination of genetics, fertility and sorghum disease management. John says the most important thing may be adopting a new mindset about sorghum.
“There’s a long-held belief that sorghum is a lower-input crop than corn, but domestic and foreign markets often pay per-bushel premiums beyond what corn can bring. With a contract to provide quality red sorghum, we get a premium of 40 to 70 cents more per bushel than corn, so it pays to adopt a high-yield strategy.”
Plant Population and Protection
John and Justin started their bin-busting yield quest by planting elite sorghum hybrids and supporting them with the fertility and crop protection inputs once reserved for corn. But they weren’t satisfied.
Yields began climbing toward 200 bushels when John and Justin boosted their usual 120,000 seeds per acre for hybrids including Pioneer 84G62 to 138,000 seeds per acre. With intensive management, they produced 12- to 13-inch heads without stalk lodging or disease problems. Justin credits sorghum disease management with making that possible.
“After preplant fertilizer, we do an aerial application at flowering of 5 percent foliar nitrogen along with DuPont™ Aproach® fungicide and an insecticide,” says Justin. “Adequate fertility for grain fill and reduced plant stress from disease and insect pressure allows maximum yield potential while maintaining high test weights.”
“Our high-yielding sorghum plan will be very similar next season,” says John, “although we might try boosting planting population by an additional 2,000 seeds per acre. We can still do better.”
Disease Management Boosts Yield
Todd Robran, DuPont Crop Protection fungicide and insecticide portfolio manager, agrees that foliar disease management can make a big yield difference. “Our multistate sorghum test plots are showing 10 to 15 percent yield increases with Aproach® fungicide. An aerial application of Aproach® at flowering provides preventive and curative protection from key diseases such as gray leaf spot and common rust. This preserves green leaf tissue for better photosynthesis and grain fill, and reduces stalk lodging for easier harvest and cleaner grain.”
He says high plant populations could make Aproach® even more valuable. “A dense leaf canopy often holds moisture to create an environment that favors disease and can prevent some fungicides from getting to areas of the plant. Aproach® compensates for that because it moves systemically throughout the entire plant, even if only applied to upper leaf surfaces.”
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