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- Grain sorghum could make a California comeback as a feedstock for ethanol and high grade biofuel production.
Grain sorghum is drought tolerant and uses less water than corn, about a third less according to some reports.
“It is a non-food substitute for corn with much lower inputs than corn — $100 to $200 per acre less,” said Fulcher.
However, milo cannot compete with high yield corn on very fertile row crop land. Fulcher says Chromatin is encouraging growers with low fertility soil or limited water supplies to try grain sorghum.
“Sorghum was really big 30 years ago, but it faded away. It can come back with the water issues and salty ground in the state,” Price said.
In a “grower economics chart” handed out at Modesto, 3.36-ton grain sorghum was more profitable than 3.64-ton corn, 26-ton corn silage and three-bale cotton, all yields consider relatively low.
Pricing grain sorghum at $228 per ton; corn at $232 per ton; corn silage at $40 per ton and cotton at $385 income per acre, Chromatin professes that sorghum comes out ahead because of its lower growing costs, mainly for seed, herbicides and pesticides. According to Chromatin, 3.36 tons per acre of grain sorghum would net $245 per acre versus less than $200 for each of the other three crops.
“At 4 tons per acre for corn, sorghum is a good alternative with a better net return,” Fulcher said.
Heiskell is contracting for No. 2 grain sorghum at 14 percent moisture for eight delivery points in the valley. The plants targeted for grain sorghum delivery are Pacific Ethanol’s facility in Stockton; Aementis plant in Keyes and the Calgren operation at Pixley.
Jeff Dahlberg, the new director of the University of California Kearney Ag Center in Parlier, is leading sorghum research in California using sorghum industry check-off funds. Dahlberg earned his doctorate at Texas A&M University on the subject of sorghums.
“Drought tolerant does not mean no water,” Dahlberg. To achieve maximum yields with limited water, he said it is imperative to provide the plants plenty of irrigation during the first 30 to 35 days of growth. Without sufficient water at panicle differentiation, Dahlberg said a grower can lose half his yield potential.
“Nitrogen use levels should be based on yield goals,” he says. “If you put down only 50 pounds of nitrogen, don’t expect 150-bushel sorghum. It’s not going to happen.
“You can really push grain sorghum, but you have to use nitrogen to do that. A common mistake in the sorghum belt is under fertilization,” he said. “Yes, sorghum uses fewer inputs, but we are basically talking about less water.”