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Drought may have impact on seed supply By Jennifer Blackburn

not wash their hands of this historic year just yet. The eff ects of the drought will be seen long into next year’s planting season as the sorghum seed industry has expe- rienced its fi rst major drought related production drop.


The good news is U.S. sorghum seed suppliers did make a crop this year. The bad news is it just was not as much as the industry had hoped for. In addition to the historic drought in the U.S., a spring freeze in Mexico diminished inventory, making seed supplies even tighter.

Supply adequate, just not overly substantial

While a diffi cult year reduced the amount and quality of seed available, growers still have time and op- portunity to get the seed they need to grow the most drought tolerant crop available—sorghum.

Larry Richardson with Richardson Seeds, a NuFarm company based in West Texas, said it’s something this business has never seen before.

“No one has ever been through a weather related issue to this extreme in the hybrid seed production industry,” said Richardson. “No one really knew what to expect in terms of the overall damage that would be done. We just knew the longer the drought and heat extended, the worse our production would be.”

xtreme heat and winds this summer, coupled with the absence of moisture, have taken their toll on this year’s crop, and unfortunately, farmers can-

Specifi c problems caused by the drought this year will make for a tight seed market, Richardson said. Ir- rigation wells could not pump enough water to keep up with the lack of soil moisture, pollination was not synchronized, seed split after water application will adversely aff ect germination, and plants aborting their seeds caused a lower seed count.

Richardson said plants were unable to support a 1000-count seed head and started aborting seeds to as low as 300, reaching a level the plant felt it could main- tain itself with the given amount of moisture it had.

“I don’t care if you’re growing corn, cott on, sorghum, or seed,” Richardson said. “We must have winter moisture to produce a crop, and we just didn’t have it this year.”

Forage sorghum seed production has undoubtedly suf- fered the most this year. Richardson said this is a result of pollination times being out of sync, coupled with the fact most forage sorghum seed acres are produced farther south where there is less irrigation.

Order your sorghum seed early

In comparison to forage sorghums, grain sorghum production has suff ered as well but it is more variety- specifi c. There may be planting seed available, but it may not be the hybrid of choice.

Even though supply is expected to be adequate, seed producers still encourage farmers to order their seed early to get what they want.

"when you compare the cost of cotton and corn seed to sorghum, your return on investment for sorghum is still a whole lot better ..."


“If a farmer knows they are going to grow sorghum, they should get their order in as quick as possible,” said Larry McDowell with Sorghum Partners LLC, located in New Deal, Texas.

“It is important to order the hybrid you want because there will be seed there later to buy, but it may not be the maturity or hybrid de- sired by the grower.”

SORGHUM Grower Fall 2011

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