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Completed: Brown Midrib Sorghum Sudangrass in New York

Collaborators:

  • Tom Kilcer, CCE of Rensselaer County (retired from CCE in 2009) (project leader).
  • Quirine Ketterings, Animal Science, Nutrient Management Spear Program, Cornell University.
  • Jerry Cherney, Crop and Soil Sciences, Forage Production, Cornell University.
  • Paul Cerosaletti, CCE of Delaware County.
  • Pete Barney, CCE of St Lawrence County (retired from CCE in 2007).
  • Mike Dennis, CCE of Seneca County (left CCE in 2009).
  • Steve Hadcock, CCE of Columbia County.
  • Greg Godwin, Animal Science, Nutrient Management Spear Program, Cornell University.
  • Sam Beer, Crop and Soil Sciences, Forage Production, Cornell University.

Relevant agronomy fact sheet(s):

Agronomy fact sheet #14: Brown midrib sorghum sudangrass, Part I; Successfully growing a high energy grass for dairy cows.

Relevant extension articles:

Ketterings, Q.M., G. Godwin, T.F. Kilcer, P. Barney, M. Hunter, J.C. Cherney, and S. Beer (2006). Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium removal by brown midrib sorghum sudangrass. What’s Cropping Up? 16(1): 4-6.

Ketterings, Q.M., G. Godwin, T.F. Kilcer, P. Barney, M. Hunter, J.H. Cherney and S. Beer (2005). Nitrogen management for brown midrib sorghum sudangrass: Results of six NY field studies in 2004. "What's Cropping Up?" 15(4): 4-7.

Ketterings, Q.M., T.F. Kilcer, P. Cerosaletti, and J.H. Cherney (2005). Phosphorus removal by brown midrib sorghum sudangrass. "What's Cropping Up?" 15(1): 5-7.

Ketterings, Q.M., G. Godwin, J.H. Cherney, S. Beer, and T.F. Kilcer (2004). Potassium management for brown midrib sorghum sudangrass. Results of two years of studies at the Mt Pleasant Research Farm. "What's Cropping Up?" 14(3): 4-5.

Ketterings, Q.M., G. Godwin, J.H. Cherney, S. Beer, and T.F. Kilcer (2004). Nitrogen management for brown midrib sorghum sudangrass. Results of two years of studies at the Mt Pleasant Research Farm. "What's Cropping Up?" 14(2): 5-6.

Kilcer, T.F., Q.M. Ketterings, P. Cerosaletti, P. Barney, and J.H. Cherney (2003). Cutting height management for brown midrib sorghum sudangrass. "What's Cropping Up?" 13(4): 4-6.

Ketterings, Q.M., T.W. Katsvairo, J.H. Cherney, and T.F. Kilcer (2003). Nitrogen management for brown midrib sorghum sudangrass: Results of the 2002 Mt Pleasant trial. "What's Cropping Up?" 13(2): 1-3.

Ketterings, Q.M., T.W. Katsvairo, J.H. Cherney, and T.F. Kilcer (2003). Potassium management for brown midrib sorghum sudangrass: Results of the 2002 Mt Pleasant trial. "What's Cropping Up?" 13(2): 6-7.

Kilcer, T.F., Q.M. Ketterings, T.W. Katsvairo and J.H. Cherney (2002). Nitrogen management for sorghum sudangrass: how to optimize N uptake efficiency? "What's Cropping Up?" 12(5): 6-9.

Cerosaletti, P., Q.M. Ketterings and T.F. Kilcer (2002). 2001 Delaware County brown mid rib sorghum sudangrass trials "What's Cropping Up?" 12(3): 1-3.

Relevant journal articles:

Ketterings, Q.M., J.H. Cherney, G. Godwin, T.F. Kilcer, P. Barney, and S. Beer (2007). Nitrogen management of brown midrib sorghum x sudangrass in the Northeastern USA. Agronomy Journal 99: 13451351. 41-46.

Ketterings, Q.M., Godwin, G., T.F. Kilcer, P. Barney, M. Hunter, J.H. Cherney, and S. Beer (2006). Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium removal by brown midrib sorghum sudangrass in the Northeastern USA. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 192: 408-416.

Ketterings, Q.M., G. Godwin, J.H. Cherney, and T.F. Kilcer (2005). Potassium management for brown midrib sorghum x sudangrass in the Northeast. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 191(1): 41-46.

Kilcer, T.F., Q.M. Ketterings, J.H. Cherney, P. Cerosaletti and P. Barney (2005). Optimum stand height for forage brown midrib sorghum x sudangrass in Northeastern USA. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 191(1): 35-40.

Ketterings, Q.M., J.H. Cherney, T.F. Kilcer, and P. Cerosaletti (2004). Phosphorus removal by brown mid rib sorghum x sudangrass in the Northeast. Online. Forage and Grazinglands 10.1094/FG-2004-1015-01-RS.

Note: The pdf's of the Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science articles are electronic versions of articles published in the journal: complete citation information for the final version of the paper, as published in the print edition of Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science, is available on the Wiley Online Library online delivery service, accessible via the journal's website at http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/JACS.

Background information:

Conventional sorghum-sudangrass is not widely grown as a feed for lactating dairy cattle because it has a lower feeding value and yields less per acre than corn silage. However, recent research has found that sorghum-sudangrass enhanced with the Brown Mid Rib (BMR) gene has a feeding value that may equal or exceed corn silage.

High quality BMR sorghum-sudangrass has many additional potential advantages over corn silage addresses issues of environmental and economic concern alike:

  1. Soil Erosion: USDA NRCS rates the soil erosion potential of sorghum-sudangrass as ½ that of corn. In addition, on-farm research in 2000 showed that sorghum-sudangrass is adaptable to a wide range of soil types and re-growth can be managed as a winter cover crop. Thus, rotations including this high-energy forage crop can significantly reduce soil loss over a wider range of soil types and slopes. Reduction of soil loss is key to soil conservation and water quality as large amounts of phosphorus can be transported off the farm through soil loss.
  2. Pesticide use: BMR sorghum-sudangrass can be grown with little or no pesticide applications. When planted at the correct depth and soil temperature, its rapid emergence negates the need for herbicides). Insects have not been found to be an economic problem and also corn rootworms do not affect it. This considerably reduced the concern of pesticide movement into surface and ground water. An additional discovery of great importance for much of New York is that deer prefer to use sorghum-sudan stands only as a safe place from which they emerge to eat corn and legumes. Deer damage to sorghum-sudan is minimal (figure 1).
  3. Nutrient Management: A 3-cut system for sorghum-sudangrass, unlike corn, allows for additional (summer) N application. This enables application of nutrients during a less hydrological sensitive time of year. In addition, splitting N applications may reduce its losses through leaching, denitrification, and/or runoff. Furthermore, labor, equipment availability, and soil trafficability are much less of a constraint during the summer.
  4. Mass Nutrient Balance: Results from field experiments conducted in Rennselaer County in 2000, showed that under intensive management (multiple cut system with high N applications) BMR sorghum-sudangrass contained twice as much protein as corn silage. Growing high protein feed on the farm could greatly reduce the need for additional grain purchases such as soybean meal. Because of its high digestibility, BMR sorghum-sudangrass has the potential to support a high forage diet. As Tom Tyluki at Cornell has demonstrated on the McMahon farm, high forage feeding has a major impact on reducing the amount of grain brought on to the farm while supporting high milk production. A reduction in grain imports could greatly improve the mass nutrient balance on NY farms as it reduced the excessive quantities of phosphorus that are presently being imported as a component of feed.
  5. Versatility: BMR sorghum-sudangrass can tolerate a shorter growing season than corn, thus allowing for more flexibility in planting date. Its harvest window appears to be larger than corn silage (no milk line to wait for) and because it does not require a grain for quality, harvest risk can be spread out over two or three cuts. This allows for better utilization of labor and equipment on limited resource farms.
  6. Lower Capital Requirement: Sorghum-sudangrass can be grown using conventional hay forage planting and harvesting equipment. It doesn't require the extra capital cost of a separate line of equipment like corn. Multiple harvests reduce the farm stress compared to corn where farmers have just one chance to get it right.
  7. Consistent Production: In the extremely droughty growing season of 1999, BMR sorghum-sudangrass showed greater yields than corn on most fields in the region. In 2000, there was record rainfall in spring, which delayed planting and subsequent harvests. At all planting dates after June 1, plot yields were higher than corn silage planted the same date. Yields of BMR sorghum-sudangrass planted on July 15 were higher than the New York State average corn silage yields in a normal year. Similar observations were done for the following years.

For Further Information:

Information on brown mid rib sorghum sudangrass projects in New York can be obtained from Tom Kilcer (tfk1@cornell.edu) or Quirine Ketterings (qmk2@cornell.edu).