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Sorghum Stalks
SUBMITTED by Kara Dunn (8-Jun-2011)
“A very wet spring season may prevent timely planting of corn for silage. Research conducted on Northern New York farms is providing growers with data on planting short-season corn hybrids or small grains to offset rainy season challenges,” says Dr. Jerry H. Cherney of Cornell University’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Ithaca, NY.
Field trials funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program and conducted on Northern NY farms in Canton, Chazy and Willsboro evaluated the option of planting shorter season corn hybrids - brown midrib (BMR) corn and BMR sorghum-sudangrass (SXS) - to adjust for late corn planting conditions.
“Tough conditions, such as in the North Country this spring, have in the past pushed some corn planting as late as mid-June to mid-July. That is when dairy farmers try to choose the best option for their situation,” Cherney says. “Some may decide not to plant corn that late and purchase supplemental forage, which can be costly.”
The data from the Northern New York farm trials indicates that brown midrib sorghum-sudangrass can be a corn silage alternative after June 15th and does not appear to have the sensitivity to stress that BMR corn exhibits.

Cherney cautions that the selection and field management of supplemental or emergency forage crops requires a thorough evaluation by each farmer. In some cases, he says, it may be more economical to buy forage compared to producing forage with a relatively high cost of production per ton.

“By mid-July it is time to forget about planting corn or sorghum-sudangrass and consider other options such as small grains,” Cherney says. “Small grains can fit well into the dairy feed ration. Winter wheat, for example, can be grazed in the early spring and harvested for grain or silage later.”

Of the spring-seeded small grains, oats and barley are the best options for forage. One of two new fact sheets posted in the Field Crops section of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) website at www.nnyagdev.org discusses the different management aspects of planting oats, barley, triticale, and three small grains planting mixes (Small Grains for Supplemental Forage). The Corn vs. SXS for Supplemental Forage Fact Sheet compares late season corn vs. sorghum sudangrass as a supplemental forage crop.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) is a farmer-driven research and outreach program specific to Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

The Northern New York region has 1.1-plus million acres in agriculture use and produces farm products with a market value of more than $595 million. The NNY farm employee payroll circulates approximately $52.9 million in the regional economy. Learn more at www.nnyagdev.org.

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