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CropTalk: The Mighty Grain Sorghum

May 2022

Published on Monday, May 2, 2022

Grain sorghum, or milo, is thought to be a secondary row crop in many regions of the Beck’s marketing area. It is a warm-season grass with a high level of heat and drought tolerance compared to other major row crops. In many areas of the US, grain sorghum is an ideal crop for the marginally productive, dryland acre, but an adequate pH is necessary as it is sensitive to a pH below 6.0. Grain sorghum can also be utilized in a crop rotation system, especially if root-knot nematodes (RKN) are present, as it is not a host for RKN.



As with all row crops, it is essential to plant into a weed-free environment. However, it is even more critical with grain sorghum because we have limited post-emergence herbicide options. It is also recommended that you do not plant sorghum to fields with a history of johnsongrass populations, due to limited control measures.

Grain sorghum responds well to an earlier planting date, but it’s important for soil temperatures to consistently be around 65°F by 9:00 A.M. for three days, with adequate moisture. These conditions should allow for rapid and uniform emergence.

Seeding rates vary greatly across the grain sorghum growing regions of the United States. Most dryland acres will be planted at about 75,000 to 80,000 seeds/A., however, some water limited geographies will plant as few as 20,000- 25,000 seeds/A. Irrigated acres can be planted at 80,000 to 100,000 seeds/A., and the most productive acres can be planted at 140,000 seeds/A. Planting depth is generally sufficient at 1.25 to 1.50 in. deep, depending on your soil type. A deeper planting depth is fine on lighter soils if moisture is limited.




Residual herbicides are going to be your best friend when growing grain sorghum. Beck’s grain sorghum products are all Concep® III treated to allow for Group 15 applications. With limited post-emerge herbicide options, it is important to start clean and utilize atrazine and a group 15 such as metolachlor/S-metolachlor, Outlook®, or Warrant® as a pre-emergence application. The addition of mesotrione to the pre-emerge pass would boost the level of broadleaf weed control.

Nitrogen (N) use rates are like that of corn on a per bushel basis, with 1.0 to 1.2 lb. of N/Bu. of grain expected. Applications of N should be splitapplied, similar to how we manage corn. A total of 25 to 33% of N should be applied pre-plant, and the remaining should be applied between the V4 and V6 growth stages.

Insect pest encounters are common within the grain sorghum production system; however there are many management options. Early-season insects include soil pests (wireworms, seedcorn maggots, white grubs), cutworms, chinch bugs, and greenbugs. Luckily, these insects are typically controlled by the insecticide component in Beck’s Escalate® seed treatment. Foliar sprays will be necessary when sugarcane aphids, whorlworms, headworms, sorghum midge, and stink bugs reach threshold levels.

Mississippi State University has a great reference in the 2022 Insect Control Guide with images of the pest and control measures for each. Grain sorghum rarely receives a fungicide application. It is recommended to scout your fields before and after heading time for the presence of disease or weather patterns conducive to increased disease pressures and make applications accordingly. Many of the fungicides used in this scenario are QoI and/or triazolebased fungicides.

Beck’s offers a full lineup of milo varieties adapted for production in the midwest. For more information and to view the products, visit


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Shane Carver

Shane Carver

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