Sorghum harvest shows impact of tough season

Early-planted sorghum plagued by high screening issues

Dave Barkla, DGB Contracting, and Will Frith, H Lagoon, Surat, in double skip MR-Taurus which has yielded 1.8 tonne per hectare.

Dave Barkla, DGB Contracting, and Will Frith, H Lagoon, Surat, in double skip MR-Taurus which has yielded 1.8 tonne per hectare.


Late-planted sorghum crops have started to show signs of moisture stress in the past week.


Isolated patches of sorghum that were lucky to get under storms at just the right time may be yielding well, but for the most part, the full impact of tough seasonal conditions is being recognised.

Harvest of early-planted crops is in full swing across the Downs, while late-planted crops have started to show signs of moisture stress in the past week.

Landmark Pittsworth agronomist, Hugh Reardon-Smith, said in the region east of Dalby some growers had started to harvest crops that had died, but they were still yielding as good as they had looked. 

“Other crops are approaching desiccation and that'll be starting to happen a bit more over the next couple of weeks,” he said. 

“The quality and the quantity is going to depend so much on stored moisture.”

Mr Reardon-Smith said paddocks that were planted on a good profile of stored moister would yield reasonably well, but there weren’t many crops planted on a full profile.  

“Most people went on probably half a profile and they're going to suffer accordingly, but they're still going to be producing reasonable grain,” he said.

“And then some of those that were planted on a wing and a prayer aren't even putting a head out, while others are putting some heads out but you'll be lucky to get any grain off them.

“It's not so much difference between varieties that we're seeing, it's difference between levels of stored soil moisture.” 

On the Western Downs, Will Frith, H Lagoon, Surat, has put the header into MR-Taurus planted on October 25 with varying results. 

“We planted 290 hectares on single skip at 1.8kg to the hectare, and 306ha of double skip at 1.6kg,” he said.

“We were hoping the double skip would do better than the single skip; the single skip is probably a bit under what we were expecting.

“You don't really know in a year like this what it's going to do, but we're very conscious that we've got under a few storms and we're very lucky. There's people that haven't had that opportunity.” 

Planted into long-fallow country because of a lack of moisture for wheat, Dave Barkla, DGB Contracting, said they went down three inches in search of moisture.

“When we planted this I went as deep as we could for the moisture, it was mid-40s while we were doing it, so it didn't have a great start,” he said.

“Because it was so hot when everyone was planting, a lot of blokes in the region had an ordinary strike with loss of moisture.” 

With only 100mm of in-crop rain, the last of which was seen on December 14, Mr Frith said the crop looked good considering the season.

“The heat definitely affected it while it was flowering and cut yield right down,” he said. 

“It got set up pretty well for a big crop, but we didn’t have the follow-up rain when we needed it most. 

“We also planted 353ha of Sentinel on December 20 which is in need of rain.”

High screening issues have also plagued growers, with Mr Reardon-Smith saying some crops had screenings between 10 and 30 per cent, while Mr Frith said his crop was screening at 25 to 30pc. 


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