MUCH of the focus in boosting sorghum yields is on better varieties and breeding advances.
However, researchers are urging growers not to overlook the potential benefits from agronomy as well in maximising sorghum tonnage.
Summer grains agronomist Trevor Philp from Pacific Seeds is conducting a project with Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) backing looking a range of drivers that may be able to help sorghum cope better with tough, dry seasons.
Given current conditions, where late season sorghum in key production zones such as the Darling Downs and northern NSW has had to contend with a January with virtually no rainfall, farmers are eagerly looking at the results.
Early doors Mr Philp has identified a range of agronomic options from early sowing to managing plant population and row spacing impact on productivity across a range of northern growing environments with different climates and rainfall potential.
He said boosting yield is a major priority, but equally creating better reliability in poor seasons was also an increasingly important part of the work.
Grain quality, especially when the crop is stressed, is also being looked at.
Mr Philp’s trial work is part of ongoing GRDC investment in tactical sorghum agronomy which involves sites from Central Queensland to the Liverpool Plains.
Now in its second year, there are some interesting findings from Mr Philp’s project, particularly in the area of row spacings.
While it is too early to make definitive statements due to the trials not running long enough, there are signs that growers in lower rainfall zones, with yield potential of less than 3 tonnes a hectare maybe better going to wider spacings.
The trials are comparing 100 centimetre, 75cm and 50cm spacings and look not only at yield, but also weed control, and fallow efficiency in the following crop as a result of increased stubble cover.
“We saw no yield impacts from the different row spacings until we got to areas that historically get under three tonnes a hectare,” Mr Philp said.
“In those more marginal areas where growers would normally go with a wide row or a skip row, the 50cm row spacing performed poorly.”
But he said it was early days and ongoing work across varying seasons would provide growers with a clearer message.
Another sorghum project underway is work conducted by Joe Eyre, from the Centre of Crop Science within the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at the University of Queensland,
Dr Eyre’s work is investigating how matching hybrid choice to a specific environment with specific management tactics can maintain or increase yields with a low risk to growers.
“The aim of this research is to help growers understand how different hybrids perform in different environmental conditions with different management tactics to ultimately give them the decision-support knowledge and tools to make the best choice for their operation,” he said.
“This project has been developed to help provide growers with the tools to choose the right hybrid depending on the potential yield they are chasing in a specific environment,” he said.