Recently I took a look at the National Sorghum Producer’s 2017 Yield Contest results, and it left me scratching my head as to why anyone would feel it’s necessary to till up a field to raise this crop.
In the major grain sorghum-producing states of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the top yield contest winners using no-till raised a combined average of 156 bushels an acre — 13 bushels better than the average 143 bushels raised by contest winners in the same states who used conventional tillage.
Contest winners in those states who raised sorghum in reduced-tillage systems yielded an average of 152 bushels an acre, which was also much higher than conventionally tilled results.
It’s impossible to know all of the factors that affect sorghum yields from year to year on farms, but these yield winners are represented by NSP to be the best of the best. I think it stands to reason that a farmer who can raise sorghum without tilling fields will see much higher preservation of soil moisture, a precious commodity in these areas where the crop is a major player.
That doesn’t count the reduction in fuel and labor costs and wind erosion that is possible with no-till practices, or the benefit of improved soil structure and organic matter content. With grain sorghum prices experiencing a small uptick and hovering around $3 a bushel, margins area already thin.
This is another lesson that seems to show reducing soil disturbance and keeping the soil covered with as much residue as possible can help growers raise sorghum yields that are just as good, if not better than neighbors who insist on plowing.