High Yield Sorghum Production
National Sorghum Producers Yield Contest
- The National Sorghum Producers (NSP) Yield Contest provides a benchmark for yields that are attainable under optimal conditions and management.
- The NSP Yield Contest recognizes three national winners annually in each of eight production divisions:
- Dryland Conventional-Till
- Dryland Double Crop
- Dryland No-Till
- Dryland Reduced-Till
- Irrigated Conventional-Till
- Irrigated Double Crop
- Irrigated No-Till
- Irrigated Reduced-Till
Figure 1. Average yield of 2017 NSP Yield Contest national winners in the eight contest categories.
Figure 2. Seed brand planted by NSP Yield Contest national winners and winners yielding above 200 bu/acre, 2012-2017.
- Selecting the right hybrid is likely the most important management decision of all those made by contest winners.
- Maximizing yield requires matching hybrid characteristics with field attributes such as moisture supplying capacity, insect and disease spectrum and intensity, maturity zone, residue cover and even seedbed temperature.
- Pioneer® brand products were used in the majority of NSP Yield Contest national winners in 2012-2017 (Figure 2).
- Eight different Pioneer® brand sorghum hybrids were national winners from 2012-2016 and seven different hybrids in the 2017 contest, showcasing a diversity of product success (Table 1).
- Five Pioneer® brand sorghum hybrids achieved yields above 200 bu/acre in the NSP Yield Contest over the past six years (Table 2).
Table 1. Pioneer® brand sorghum hybrids planted by past NSP Yield Contest national winners (2012-2016) and national winners in the 2017 contest.
Table 2. Yields above 200 bu/acre attained with Pioneer® brand sorghum hybrids in the NSP Yield Contest, 2012-2017.
- The majority of winning entries in the NSP Yield Contest seeded sorghum at a rate between 90,000 and 140,000 seeds/acre, with some variation among categories (Figure 3).
- Among all contest entries, a wide range of sorghum seeding rates were used, but the most common rates were between 40,000 and 120,000 seeds/acre (Figure 4).
Figure 3. Average seeding rate of NSP Yield Contest national winners from 2017, by division.
Figure 4. Frequency of seeding rates used among all contest entries in the NSP Yield Contest, 2012-2017.
- The most common row width used in the NSP Yield Contest was 30-inch rows, which was used in 62% of contest entries (Figure 5).
- 15-inch rows was the second most popular row width, accounting for 19% of entries.
- Narrower row configurations (< 15 inches) comprised 6% of entries, 16-29 inch widths were represented at 6%, and 7% of contestants planted sorghum at wider row configurations above 30 inches.
Figure 5. Row spacing of entries in the NSP Yield Contest, 2012-2017.
- Although sorghum is considered a relatively low-input crop compared to corn, nitrogen is the nutrient that most frequently limits sorghum production.
- Sorghum requires approximately 1.1-1.5 lbs of nitrogen per bushel harvested, so a total nitrogen needed for the soil per acre can depend on expected yield.
- Only a portion of this amount needs to be supplied through nitrogen fertilizer; N is also supplied by the soil through mineralization of soil organic matter.
- The most common nitrogen fertilizer rates among 2017 NSP Yield Contest entries ranged from 101-150 lbs/acre, with over 30% of entries in this range (Figure 6).
- 18% of entries had a nitrogen fertilization rate less than 100 lbs/acre, while 26% applied nitrogen at a rate from 151 to 200 lbs/acre, and 15% above 200 lbs/acre.
Figure 6. Nitrogen fertilizer rates for all entries in the NSP Yield Contest, 2017.
Author: Mark Jeschke