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2010 NSP Yield


& Management Contest Irrigated


Bin Buster 186.4 bu/a


By Shelee Padgett W


ith only 40,000 acres of grain sorghum planted in the state of Illinois, many Midwestern farm- ers question the crop’s role in the state and its


profi tability. However, the Scates Family Farm sees the crop as a profi table rotational crop for their operation.


Farming heritage


The Scates Family Farm started in the 1930s and is truly a family aff air as the farm employs 12 family members from three generations of Scates. The farm is located in southern Illinois and western Kentucky on the banks of the Litt le Wa- bash and the Ohio Riv- ers. Currently, the fam- ily grows grain sorghum, corn, soybeans, wheat, green beans and cucum- bers. However, at one point in the operation’s history, the Scates also grew a number of additional vegetables as well as tobacco. Today, the only ad- dition to the row crop operation is their Valley Irrigation Pivot dealership in Shawneetown, Ill., which covers all of southern Illinois, western Kentucky and southwest Indiana.


river bott om, which is a holding area for fl oodwaters com- ing from areas north of us. Every year we can potentially lose 3,000 to 4,000 acres of land to fl oodwater.”


A risk management tool


“Grain sorghum is a viable crop that helps the producer spread their risk with planting as well as harvesting.”


In addition to the challenges every farm faces, the Scates family also needs to manage the yearly potential for fl ood- ing. According to John, when the younger generation joined the farm, they were more willing to look for solutions to remedy their fl ooding problem, which utlimately became a planting problem. The Scates were willing to try something new, and milo fi t their rotation, plus they were comfortable marketing the crop.


“We needed to break the cycle of planting soy-


beans on the bott om ground for 15 to 20 years straight,” said John. “We use milo as a risk management tool.”


“Grain sorghum is a relatively new crop for the family’s op- eration,” says John Scates, a third generation member of the Scates family, who joined the family business after receiv- ing a degree in agronomy from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.


“We farm in Gallatin and White counties in Illinois as well as Union County in Kentucky, and much of that ground is


SORGHUM Grower Spring 2011


John admits planting grain sorghum in an area that is not known for the crop has been a challenge, but through his participation with the National Sorghum Producers’ Yield and Management Contest and resources at Southern Illinois University, University of Illinois, and his Pioneer seed rep- resentatives, they are learning more and more every year.


Jason Bond specializes in nematology and plant pathol- ogy at Southern Illinois University and is one of the many resources the Scates Family Farm looks to for information.


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