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Texas sorghum ‘looks good,’ scouting encouragedTexas sorghum ‘looks good,’ scouting encouraged

Overall, Texas sorghum crops are faring well. Coastal Bend sorghum producers see "phenomenal yields," while South Plains and Panhandle producers hold out hope for rain.

Shelley E. Huguley

August 10, 2023

5 Min Read
silage sorghum
Sorghum silage harvest: Sorghum crops are doing well but those in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains are in need of rainfall. Shelley E. Huguley

Despite this summer’s heat wave, Texas sorghum is faring well, according to Sorghum Checkoff Director of Agronomy Brent Bean.

South Texas sorghum had a good year thanks to “timely rains and no adverse weather conditions to speak of,” Bean says. “It did begin to get dry towards the end of the season, depending on where you were at, but overall, a good year.”

“We’ve seen some phenomenal grain sorghum yields,” says Jeff Nunley, executive director, South Texas Cotton and Grain, Corpus Christi, in a recent Farm Press article. “Grain sorghum yield of 6,000 pounds is common. It’s lower in dryer areas. The highest I’ve seen is 10,000 pounds on one small field. The field next to it made 9,000.”

The region also experienced low numbers of sugarcane aphids, stink bugs and head worms. “Nothing real serious,” Bean says.

Increased acres

Sorghum acres on the South Plains up into the Panhandle and western Kansas, have increased this year, Bean says. “The crop is looking good. Some of it went in a little later than we would want but for the most part, we still have plenty of time.”

One benefit of the summer’s triple-digit temperatures is that it’s allowed late sorghum to catch up on heat units, Bean adds. “That’s a good thing for some of this later sorghum.

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“We did get enough rain to build up at least some water in the soil profile, so it’s been hanging in there pretty well with these hot days, although it’s beginning to dry in some areas.”

The region needs rain to finish out the crop. “We’re in those days that makes or breaks sorghum. Some sorghum is headed out. Some of this later sorghum is at boot stage or a little earlier but now is a key time. So, hopefully we can get some rain in the next few days to help the crop.”

The intense heat is not beneficial for grain-setting, Bean adds. “We talk about sorghum being very heat tolerant, and it is compared to other crops, but even sorghum doesn’t like this 100-degree weather. Sorghum is especially sensitive to heat around the boot and early flowering stages. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about that.

“We would like to see some cooler temperatures but overall, the crop looks good. We just need some rain and good weather to finish it off.”

Sugarcane aphids

Scorching temperatures have not kept the sugarcane aphid at bay. “I’m surprised the aphid showed up as early as it did this year,” Bean says. “Especially since we did not see much of an issue with aphids in South and Central Texas. Generally, if we do not have an issue in South Texas, we’re not going to have an issue up here.”

Related:Heat wave bears down on South Texas crops

Most fields are clean, but there are some fields where the aphids have come in and reached threshold and producers have had to spray. “I suspect in a lot of cases those are on the more susceptible hybrids that do not have tolerance to the sugarcane aphid,” Bean adds.

Producers growing silage sorghum tend to pull the treatment trigger quicker than those with grain sorghum, he says. “They don’t want the aphid to take off because it’s such an issue in getting good coverage, so they’ll pull the trigger pretty quick. Most fields are clean, but this can change quickly.”

No matter, Bean emphasized the importance of scouting. “We don’t know which fields they’re going to be in. We’ve had hot winds the last month and I think these winds have blown some aphids that were present in South Texas up here. Different fields just happen to be the lucky ones or the unlucky ones. You may look at one field and you’ve got aphids and then you look at the next six fields and you don’t have anything. So, they’re not centralized.”

Aphid numbers have been greater in Hale and Floyd counties, which is typical, he says, along with east of Amarillo and even up south of Wichita, Kansas. “I know a producer up there that had to spray, which is a bit surprising.  All the fields around him were clean, so that’s kind of what we’re seeing. We haven’t heard of reports of aphids around the Dumas/Sunray area, but I suspect there’s a few fields that do have some aphids.”

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He advises growers check their fields weekly. “See if anything is showing up and if you need to treat. But for now, most fields are clean.”

As producers scout for sugarcane aphids, Bean warns head worms should be on their radar as well. “If your sorghum is headed out, take a bucket and beat the head on the sides of the bucket and look for head worms. We tend to forget that pest, but it can cause damage.

“We’ve got good potential with a lot of this sorghum, so let’s hang on to it and protect it.”

Irrigated sorghum

As sorghum approaches the boot state or early heading, Bean says, “this is a key time to irrigate, if possible. That can add a lot of grain numbers and weight or even tonnage from a silage standpoint.


Weeds have been an issue where rainfall kept growers from applying their pre-emergent herbicide. “That puts a lot of pressure on getting a post herbicide to work and we’ve certainly seen that. I’ve had a few calls about ‘rescue treatments,’ what can you do?

Husky FX is an option up to 30-inch sorghum, says Bean. “Another treatment I like to use for a ‘rescue-type’ treatment is a mixture of atrazine with some bromoxynilin it, as well as 4 ounces of dicamba. That can also be applied up to about 30 days. You're kind of pushing the label on that, but if you’ve got a real mess and you need to do something, that's an option.”

A final option for a rescue treatment is applying dicamba after the crop reaches the soft dough stage. This will not give you 100 percent control of weeds, but can knock the weeds back enough to help with harvest, says Bean.

As for finishing out the season, “We’re at the mercy of the weather, so we’ll continue to pray for timely rains.”

Read more about:

Sugarcane Aphid

About the Author(s)

Shelley E. Huguley

Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Shelley Huguley has been involved in agriculture for the last 25 years. She began her career in agricultural communications at the Texas Forest Service West Texas Nursery in Lubbock, where she developed and produced the Windbreak Quarterly, a newspaper about windbreak trees and their benefit to wildlife, production agriculture and livestock operations. While with the Forest Service she also served as an information officer and team leader on fires during the 1998 fire season and later produced the Firebrands newsletter that was distributed quarterly throughout Texas to Volunteer Fire Departments. Her most personal involvement in agriculture also came in 1998, when she married the love of her life and cotton farmer Preston Huguley of Olton, Texas. As a farmwife, she knows first-hand the ups and downs of farming, the endless decisions made each season based on “if” it rains, “if” the drought continues, “if” the market holds. She is the bookkeeper for their family farming operation and cherishes moments on the farm such as taking harvest meals to the field or starting a sprinkler in the summer with the whole family lending a hand. Shelley has also freelanced for agricultural companies such as Olton CO-OP Gin, producing the newsletter Cotton Connections while also designing marketing materials to promote the gin. She has published articles in agricultural publications such as Southwest Farm Press while also volunteering her marketing and writing skills to non-profit organizations such as Refuge Services, an equine-assisted therapy group in Lubbock. She and her husband reside in Olton with their three children Breely, Brennon and HalleeKate.

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