How to maintain sorghum yields in tough seasons – stay tuned

image of Sorghum
Tactical sorghum agronomy or more specifically row spacing, hybrid selection and plant population for maintaining crop yield across diverse regions in Queensland and northern New South Wales is the focus of this week’s GRDC podcast. Photo GRDC.

Sorghum yield has long been king for growers and now new research is investigating how a range of management options from early sowing to plant population and row spacing impact on productivity across diverse northern growing environments.

This trial work is part of a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment into tactical sorghum agronomy and involves sites from Central Queensland to the Liverpool Plains.

The GRDC currently has more than $7.5 million worth of investments into sorghum spread across six primary projects, as well as additional research in which sorghum is one of multiple crops being studied.

This week’s guests on the GRDC podcast series are sorghum researchers Dr Joe Eyre, from the Centre of Crop Science within the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at the University of Queensland, and summer grains agronomist Trevor Philp from Pacific Seeds.

In this podcast, the two researchers talk tactical sorghum agronomy, including the merits of different row spacing, plant population and hybrid selection for different environments to maintain or improve yield.

Mr Philp said improving yield underpinned his research, but ensuring crop reliability in increasingly variable environmental conditions was an increasingly important focus.

“Environmental conditions are challenging us now and are predicted to do so increasingly in the future, so we need to look at what we can do to maintain yield and this includes looking at issues, such as, stress tolerance and grain quality.”

Mr Philp’s research is in its second year, with sites stretching from Central Queensland to the Liverpool Plains comparing 100 centimetre, 75cm and 50cm row spacings in terms of weed control, and fallow efficiency in the following crop as a result of increased stubble cover.

“It is early in this research and we’ve had some tough finishes to the season, but generally the crops looked fantastic all the way through to flowering,” he said.

“We saw no yield impacts from the different row spacings until we got to areas that historically get under three tonnes a hectare.

“In those more marginal areas where growers would normally go with a wide row or a skip row, the 50cm row spacing performed poorly.”

But he said it was early days and ongoing work across varying seasons would provide growers with a clearer message.

Meanwhile, Dr Eyre’s work is investigating how matching hybrid choice to a specific environment with specific management tactics can maintain or increase yields with a low risk to growers.

“The aim of this research is to help growers understand how different hybrids perform in different environmental conditions with different management tactics to ultimately give them the decision-support knowledge and tools to make the best choice for their operation,” he said.

“This project has been developed to eventually help provide growers with the tools to choose the right hybrid depending on the potential yield they are chasing in a specific environment,” he said.

“It then looks at how management choices, such as early sowing, plant population and row spacing across diverse northern growing environments, impact yield.”

The work compared commercially available hybrids with the widely grown MR Buster and new low tillering varieties, at different plant densities and row spacings in a variety of environments.

“It is early in the research, but what the relative trends have shown is low tillering hybrids are well suited and can assist in maintaining yields in harsher environments,” Dr Eyre said.

“But there are complex elements to consider so more work is needed. Eventually we want to have proven results that will help inform crop design and assist growers in the future to match the management of specific hybrids to a given environment, planting date and cropping system.

The GRDC has extended the sorghum agronomy program for a further five years, so this work can continue.

To hear about early results from the researchers and their plan for ongoing work, visit Souncloud

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    GRDC Podcast

    GRDC Podcast: Sorghum row spacing for weed management

    GRDC’s multi million dollar investment in sorghum research is looking for ways to maximise yield and profitability while positioning the crop in total farming systems.

    Date: 16 Jan 2019

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