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Sorghum sudangrass hybrids could be ideal this year

June 19, 2007|by JEFF SEMLER

Even though we have received showers recently, it is a good idea to make plans for emergency forages.

Short first cutting yields due to limited moisture this spring have set the stage for the potential for long-term forage inventory issues.

Early June seedings of sorghum sudangrass hybrids can serve as a forage stretcher in case these dry conditions continue.

These crops will perform well in dry conditions, but have the potential to really produce high quality forage under optimum growing conditions, too.

Early June is an ideal time to establish these forage crops for both dry and normal growing conditions. However, establishment up to July 4 is possible.

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Maybe sorghum sudangrass production is new to you; follow these steps from Extension experts for success.

Select for high forage quality characteristics. Digestibility is key for highest forage quality levels and will vary by variety.

Seed at 65 to 70 pounds of seed per acre and plant at a depth of 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Do not plant too deep!

Weeds rarely out-compete the development of sorghum sudangrass hybrids. Because of multiple harvesting, weeds are rarely a problem, so no herbicides are needed after establishment.

High fertility levels are necessary for optimum yields. Phosphorous and potassium requirements are similar to those of forages used for corn silage.

Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids are also significant users of nitrogen. One hundred pounds of nitrogen is recommended at planting and a second application of 100 pounds of nitrogen following first cutting is recommended for high yield potential. Base the second application on moisture levels and yield potential.

It is critical to harvest stands when they reach 30 to 36 inches in height. Forage quality of taller stands will be greatly reduced.

These plants will grow rapidly and if not managed on time, can quickly attain 5 feet or more.

Do not let these stands get ahead of your planned cutting height.

Under optimum growing conditions, second cutting may be ready for harvest in as little as 25 days. Mow at a cutting height of 3 to 4 inches to encourage rapid regrowth. Do not harvest stands less than 2 feet in height.

This crop contains high levels of moisture and will require wide windrow management to ensure rapid dry down. The shorter the period from mowing to harvest, the better the quality of the forage.

This crop is an excellent choice for haylage or baleage production.

In addition to warm season forages, you can also have an eye toward fall/winter forages such as oats, barely, wheat, rye and annual ryegrass. All of these forages can be planted following corn or sorghum sudangrass in late August or early September.

In addition to serving as cover crops, they can also provide forage for grazing or harvesting in the fall and again next spring.

If possible, plant these winter annuals close to the barn and let the diesel fuel in the tank by allowing the cows to graze them.

Not only will she harvest her own feed, she will spread her own manure.

For information on forage systems, feel free to contact the Extension office at 301-791-1304.

As always, in the summer, keep cool and pray for rain.

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