Downs sorghum thrives after patchy start

Emma Alsop, January 15, 2024

A crop of A66 sorghum with good yield potential at Bowenville. Photo: Lance Wise

DARLING Downs sorghum crops are flourishing due to widespread rainfall that reached growing regions in December, with at least average yields anticipated.

In some areas, the crop has been planted instead of cotton, with water availability pushing people towards the hardier sorghum plant.

The majority of crops were planted in December with small patches of early planted sorghum struggling from the lack of rainfall in October.

Lachstock Consulting in its December 11 S&D Report – Sorghum & Corn revised up the national sorghum production about 140,000 tonnes to 1.74 million tonnes (Mt), due primarily to an increase in Queensland plantings.

The report predicted southern Qld would produce 936,000t of sorghum this season, down from the 2023-24 total of 1.599Mt, but above the five-year average of 872,ooot.

Production could be further revised upwards, with a proportion of growers opting to plant from mid to late December, which would not be captured by these figures.

Lachstock also pointed to the likelihood of at least average rainfall in southern Qld having a positive impact on yields.

“According to the longer term BOM outlook released on the 7th of December, above-average rainfall is likely for southeast Qld and north-east New South Wales in January which would be positive for plant establishment,” the report said.

“The longer term 3-month outlook is neutral/positive for major sorghum growing regions.

“If this forecast is realised, production may be higher than the current forecast, as it would be supportive of yields, although the outlook for a greater than 80pc chance of above-average maximum temperatures could temper moisture gains.”

There is a 50-50 chance that southern Qld growers will receive more than their median rainfall from February-April according to the BOM’s latest climate outlook.

Condamine grower Ben Taylor said he was pleased with his decision plant sorghum rather than cotton.

He said the past two years were ideal for cotton, but this season’s lack of water made sorghum a safer choice.

“When we have water, we grow cotton, but we don’t have enough water to grow cotton, so we are all sorghum,” Mr Taylor.

The decision has paid off for Mr Taylor, who said the crop was thriving and “on point for an above-average yield”.

“We’re very happy with our crop and it has been set up very nicely.

“There is a long way to go but it’s absolutely in the money-making game.”

Dalby-based agronomist Angus Dalgliesh from Nutrien Ag Solutions said crop progress was “quite staggered”, but most of the sorghum was growing well and expected to yield three tonnes per hectare at a minimum.

“All our sorghum crops are looking really good at the moment,” Mr Dalgliesh said.

“Some early stuff…is a bit staggered.

“The majority of our sorghum crops are about a foot tall.

“Some are more advanced than others and some further behind…it is a bit of a mixed bag.”

He said most growers planted in December, and small patches of early crop struggled to get out of the ground.

“They look good but we have struggled to get some of the crops up because the country was dry for so long then got wet, and then the moisture disappeared.”

Storms force some replants

AgForce Grains president and Warra grower Brendan Taylor said small pockets of hail wiped out some crops, mainly in the Macalister region.

“There were some isolated but very severe storms in a couple of patches that have been cleaned up pretty badly by storms,” Mr Taylor said.

Mr Dalgliesh said there was a hailstorm about three weeks ago that impacted a range of crops.

“We had a big hailstorm about three weeks ago now and it went over about 3000ha of our growers.

“We’ve had corn and cotton crops written off and some sorghum and corn crops replanted.”

Rain needed for strong finish

Looking towards a March or April harvest, Mr Taylor said he was on the lookout for another rain event to cement the crop’s success.

“We’d still love to see another 50-60mm of rain on our sorghum.”

Mr Taylor said most growers would need some rain in the next few weeks to keep the crop flourishing.

“It is growing powerfully now, but to reach it’s potential it needs 50-100mm of rain in the next couple of weeks.”

Early signs of mice activity

Mr Taylor said he was calling on growers to keep an eye out for signs of mice activity as sorghum crops begin coming out in head.

“There is a lot of mice starting to show up in winter fallow.

“We’re trying to get the message out for people to get out and have a look and deal with them appropriately before sorghum crops come out in head.”

He said early treatment was the best solution for keeping mice populations down.

“We had all that drama a few years ago in areas…where mice got into the sorghum and did there business all over the top of the plant as well as doing damage and mice dirt turned up in the sample.

“We were seeing loads rejected at delivery points because there was too much mice dirt in it.

“We don’t want to be there again.

“The effective solution to that is to bait before sorghum crops come out in head.”



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