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2017 Projects: Nitrogen and Harvest Time for Brachytic Dwarf Brown Midrib Forage Sorghum in Double Crop Rotations

The practice of double cropping is increasing in popularity in New York due to many environmental, economic and production benefits. Winter cereal double crops provide the environmental benefits of cover crops, such as reduced risk of erosion and nutrient loss, as well as increasing per acre crop yields by up to 3.5 tons of dry matter in the spring for forage. Because of the short growing season in upstate New York, harvesting the winter cereals in time for corn planting in the spring can be a challenge. Brachytic Dwarf Brown Midrib (BMR) forage sorghum is a promising alternative to corn silage in double cropping rotations due to both it’s nutritional value and the potential for earlier harvest, thus allowing for more flexibility in spring planting. We have two main questions in regard to growing BMR forage sorghum as an alternative to corn silage: (1) how much N do we need to apply at planting for optimal economic yield, and (2) what are the tradeoffs between yield and quality at different stages of harvest? Spearheaded by Tom Kilcer (Advanced Agricultural Systems, Inc.), on-farm trials (4 times replicated) were implemented to quantify crop response to N addition (5 N rates at planting: 0, 50, 100, 150, and 200 lbs N/acre) and the tradeoffs between yield and quality at different timings of harvest (5 harvest times, at growth stages 5-9). In total, 11 trials were established from 2014-2016. Work is currently ongoing in eastern, central and northern New York.


  • Determine the nitrogen needs of Brachytic Dwarf BMR forage sorghum seeded after winter cereal harvest and harvested for silage (soft dough stage) prior to winter cereal planting in the fall.
  • Determine the tradeoffs between yield and quality for Brachytic Dwarf BMR forage sorghum if harvested at different growth stages.

Initial funding for this project comes from Alta Seeds, Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP), Federal Formula Funds, and contribution by Northeast Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (NESARE). Contact Sarah Lyons ( or Quirine Ketterings ( if you would like more information on this project.

If you would like to receive more information or have questions about our collaborative projects and the On-Farm Research Partnership, contact Quirine Ketterings ( or 607-255-3061). You can also write to: Quirine Ketterings, Nutrient Management Spear Program, Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, 323 Morrison Hall, Ithaca NY 14853.