Iowa Farmer Setting a Trend with Sorghum S
orghum is not a typical crop you will find in a field in Centerville, Iowa. In fact, Joel Spring said his friends and neighbors thought he was crazy when
he started growing this new crop. But after a couple years of successfully growing and marketing grain sor- ghum, Spring’s neighbors are now showing an interest in his off-the-wall crop.
“They want to know the right management practices so when they raise it the first year everything will be done right,” Spring said.
In southern Iowa, sorghum is becoming more popular be- cause of its drought tolerance. Spring began growing sor- ghum two years ago and said it withstands harsh weather much better than other crops typically grown in the area.
“Sorghum can take the heat and drought stress, hang in there a while longer and still maintain yield,” he said.
In addition to withstanding drought conditions, the market for sorghum in the area has recently expanded. Spring said grain sorghum is gaining popularity in South- ern Iowa, especially with the help of Murphy Brown LLC and the Sorghum Checkoff along with an increase in local educational field days.
“Murphy Brown said they could take enough sorghum to cover 50,000 acres in southern Iowa and northern Missouri,” Spring said. “I think it’s a crop that will really take off here in the next five-10 years”
Spring said he sees a promising future for sorghum in Io- wa from an economic standpoint. He is making $80-100 more per acre growing sorghum than other crops he has previously grown.
To accompany his sorghum, Spring raises 1,600 hogs an- nually in his swine operation. He is solely using a sorghum feed ration and finds it beneficial in many ways.
“We did nutritional samples and we weren’t losing any- thing on feed value or feed efficiency by switching to sor- ghum. With the economics being behind it, it just makes
sense on our farm to be feeding our hogs grain sorghum,” Spring said.
Considering Spring is fairly new to the sorghum indus- try, he said his unique opportunity to be a member of Leadership Sorghum Class II helped him learn new ways to improve his operation and find best management practices for his region.
“We use different production practices,” he said, “What works in [my classmates’ areas] may be things to try here, just because sorghum is such a new crop for us.”
Spring said he is anxious to learn more about sorghum and what the crop has to offer in the upcoming Leader- ship Sorghum session in November.
“The biggest things I will try to bring back from my participation in the Leadership Sorghum program is the knowledge and expertise to expand this crop in our area and what it takes to make sorghum a popular and viable crop,” Spring said. “You’ll be very impressed with what sorghum will do on your farm if you’ll treat it like you do any crop.”
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