Early sorghum widens window of opportunity

Early sorghum widens window of opportunity for Darling Downs grower


Coarse Grains
Warra, Queensland, grower Daniel Wegener in his paddock of sorghum planted on August 10 and photographed on October 23. PHOTO: Liz Wells

Warra, Queensland, grower Daniel Wegener in his paddock of sorghum planted on August 10 and photographed on October 23. PHOTO: Liz Wells

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Bringing forward the planting date for sorghum by four to six weeks from the norm can pay dividends.

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Bringing forward the planting date for sorghum by four to six weeks from the norm is paying dividends for a Darling Downs grower, Daniel Wegener, through increased yields and better accumulation of soil water in fallow periods.

Daniel and his wife Melissa, and Daniels parents Neil and Cathy, crop 1600 hectares between Brigalow and Warra, Queensland, and Daniel says the move is helping them to make the most out of their double-cropping rotation of sorghum followed by wheat, barley and chickpeas.

Bringing our sorghum planting forward is part of the whole package we are bringing to our cropping system, Daniel says.

Its opening up the opportunity to better use summer and autumn rain for the winter crop, and having our sorghum crops reach flowering before successive heatwaves.

Based on concerns tied to inadequate air and soil temperatures to get the crop off to a flying start in even late September, October has traditionally been the big month for planting sorghum on the Darling Downs.

The Wegeners bucked the trend by planting some of their sorghum from late August to early September in 2017 and 2018, and plan to keep doing it for part, if not all, of their future sorghum.

They have been watching with interest the success of early sorghum for some growers in the wider district, and University of Queensland trials and commercial crops on the Bidstrup familys nearby property.

The earlier you plant, the less chance you have of going through multiple heatwaves, and the benefit is extra and more reliable yield. - Darling Downs grower Daniel Wegener

Dad and I have been talking for a few years about planting early, and August in 2017 and 2018 were dry, so that enabled us to give it a go.

Last year, the whole paddock came up in 12 to 16 days.

It got a heap of rain in early October and it took off, and gave us a crop with no screening or lodging problems.

It was some of our best and highest-yielding sorghum, and I put that down to it not having a tough finish.

The 178ha of MR-Bazley and MR-Taurus averaged 5.19 tonnes per hectare, and Daniel says early planted crops are yielding a minimum 10 per cent better than those sown in October.

The earlier you plant, the less chance you have of going through multiple heatwaves, and the benefit is extra and more reliable yield.

By the time Christmas and New Year comes, the early crops starting to finish up before harvest by the end of January, which is about one month earlier than the October plant.

Planting early wont avoid a run of hot days in NovemberDecember, but it will avoid those later heatwaves, which have been costing us yield.

More information: Daniel Wegener, dmwegener@optusnet.com.au; Associate Professor Daniel Rodriguez, 0434 075 094,d.rodriguez@uq.edu.au; Joseph Eyre, 0467 737 237, j.eyre@uq.edu.au

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