As of now, three quarters of the sorghum throughout Kansas is mature. This is ahead of the 48% at this time last year. According to the USDA, as of Oct. 5, only 14% was harvested.
Like with other crops, the success of this year’s sorghum crop was not only dependent upon farming practices and soil, but where in the state the farmer lives and the amount of rain their farm receives.
Jed Fleske of Fleske Farms in Larned is in the middle of his grain sorghum harvest. He said he is pleased with the yields he is seeing on his 1,500 acres of the crop.
"We’re averaging about 118 to 144 bushels per acre," Fleske said. "We had pretty good growing conditions."
As of Oct. 9, Kansas sorghum for grain is forecast at 237 million bushels. According to the USDA, this is up 16% from last year. The USDA said the area for harvest, at just under three million acres, is up 15% from last year. Yield is forecast at 86 bushels per acre, according to the USDA. But this only adds one bushel over last year.
Fleske said he had good rains and cool weather, which helped with the crop.
"The cover crops and no-till has really helped us with our milo yields," Fleske said.
Jim Sipes, who farms in Manter, said his crop of sorghum did not go as well this year. Although southwest Kansas usually receives about 16 inches of rain annually, this year’s rains were even lower.
Sipes, who holds a master’s degree in agronomy with an emphasis on grain sorghum, is a fifth generation farmer in Morton County. Although his family raised sorghum when he was growing up, he has increased the amount of the grain on his farm.
Similar to Fleske, Sipes started practicing no-till methods. Both farmers say this practice helps their yield.
"Every time you till a farm you lose one half an inch of moisture," Sipes said. "The no till helps because you also help to hold the residue on top of the ground, so it doesn’t evaporate."
Because of the lack of rain during planting, Sipes only expects to harvest about one third of his 3,300 sorghum acres. He does not plan to harvest until about ten days after the first frost as most of the crop was late coming up. Although in previous years, Sipes’ crop brought in 65 bushels per acre on this dry-land crop, this year he anticipates about 40 bushels per acre on the one third he plans to harvest. The rest of his sorghum should bring in about 10 bushels per acre. In addition to the lack of rain, the cooler night temperatures are not helping the southwestern Kansas harvest.
"It’s a tropical plant. It doesn’t like cold nights. It goes into cold stress if it goes below 55 degrees," Sipes said. "I was not very optimistic about my crop this year."