The dwindling agricultural water supply and economically struggling dairy industry has prompted an interest in producing forage sorghums rather than corn silage.

According to UC agronomist Bob Hutmacher, Tulare County UCCE farm advisor and Jeff Dahlberg, director at the Kearney center, research elsewhere has shown forage sorghums utilize half to a third of the water of corn forage and still provide excellent nutritional feed for animals.

This has prompted several variety trials at Kearney and the Westside Research and Extension Center at Five Points, Calif.

Fourteen seed companies have provided 80 hybrids for the trials funded by the United Sorghum Checkoff Program.

These California trials are validating the results of similar research in Texas. “Given the limited amount of irrigation used in these (California) studies, low inputs and high yield, the potential does exist to save water and fertilizer” with these forage sorghums.

However, the first year of the trials also revealed that more research is needed to identify proper planting dates, densities, fertilization and water to optimize yield without lodging issues.