From Cotton Grower Magazine – March 2017
While sorghum prices have languished since a mid-summer tumble in 2016, the crop still has a lot to offer to growers on the High Plains – particularly as a rotation option with cotton.
Sorghum residue can be a boon to cotton – particularly in the early season and during dry conditions.
“Texas A&M AgriLife Research has shown increased cotton yields when grown in a rotation with sorghum,” says Jourdan Bell, agronomist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “Sorghum residue minimizes evaporative losses from the soil, which can be critical early in the season prior to canopy development.”
But minimizing moisture loss isn’t the only benefit sorghum residue can provide.
“Residues also protect the cotton seedling from wind and sand blasting in May and early June, which is key,” Bell says. “A plant that starts strong will likely remain vigorous throughout the season. The residue is also very valuable for soil quality. Under continuous cotton production, we see soil organic matter decline, but in a sorghum rotation, the plant residue, including the sorghum plant’s fibrous root system, is invaluable to maintaining the soil organic matter.
“Soils with depleted organic matter have decreased water holding capacity and poor structure.”
Of course, sorghum production is not without its challenges. In recent years, the sugarcane aphid has become a massive pest for producers. Bell notes, however, that there are new tools in the fight against that troublesome insect pest.
“There is a growing number of sugarcane aphid tolerant sorghum hybrids on the market,” she says. “Hybrid selection is the first line of defense to combat sugarcane aphids.”
And though some growers are discouraged enough by the sugarcane aphid to consider other crop options, Bell notes that when it comes to crop selection, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
“It is important for producers to realize that they may be exchanging scouting for sugarcane aphids for scouting for cotton pests,” she says. “There is no easy way out.”