Arkansas grain sorghum was heavily hit by the week-long rainy period in mid-August. Depending on where you were in the state, from August 15 through 19 “it seemed like the rains would never shut off,” says Jason Kelley, Arkansas Extension grain specialist.
“Our earlier-planted grain sorghum probably would have been harvested during that rainy spell. So, it really hit at the absolute worst time for our producers.”
Anytime the crop is mature and stays wet for several days in warm temperatures, “there’s a real threat it’ll sprout. We’re still dealing with that now, several weeks later.
“I went back and looked at our records. Anything planted April through early May, was likely impacted. If it was planted later in May, or in June, the crop may not have been mature enough to sprout. But something like 80 percent of the grain sorghum was planted in late April to early May so the majority of the crop has sprout damage.”
Much of the crop was harvested the last week of August.
“To make things worse, the grain price wasn’t really good to begin with. Now, the damage has driven the price down further. Some are getting salvage-type prices. Even good grain sorghum isn’t much over $3 per bushel, though.”
As for damage percentages, “I’ve seen grain-grading tickets from 3 percent to 30-plus percent. Most of the grain sorghum is exported and usually anything over 10 percent damage isn’t what grain terminals want. Fortunately, there are places that are still taking grain sorghum – probably not at full price.”
It doesn’t make it easier to swallow, but farmers accept the risk of sprouting events, says Kelley. “That’s just one of the problems with growing grain. Producers will remember the sprouting in 2009.
“A year ago, we had 450,000 grain sorghum acres. That meant in 2015, Arkansas had the third highest acreage in the nation behind Kansas and Texas. So, if you want to take a positive away from this, we didn’t plant nearly that much this year – around 40,000. If we’d have had 400,000 acres this situation would have been a much bigger deal for the state.
“If we’re going to see significant grain sorghum acres next year the price will have to go up.”
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What about the state’s corn crop?
“There has been some sprouting in corn but not nearly the extent of grain sorghum. There are various levels of sprouting depending on the hybrid. Good, tight shucks over the ears helped repel water.
“I’ve been in some trials in the last week and some of the hybrids look as good as they did before the rains – zero sprouting. Move to the next hybrid – one with a looser shuck – and you may find sprouting.”
Producers are “at least” a week behind with the cropping season. That means “a lot of farmers are cutting corn they’d prefer to let dry down a bit more. Three weeks ago, in some of my plots, the corn was at 23 to 25 percent moisture. On Friday it was down to 17 to 19 percent moisture. It’s been very slow to dry down.”
Rain has definitely delayed harvest, says Kelley. “There are a lot of cornfields with weak stalks. One decent wind and there will be some corn laying down. Three weeks of delaying harvest is beginning to take a toll and we need to get the crop out.”