Viewing sorghum from a different angle

Sorghum, like any other crop, has garnered a certain reputation among growers, both good and bad. Josh Lofton, assistant professor and cropping systems specialist at Oklahoma State University, spoke at High Plains Journal’s Sorghum U/Wheat U virtual event and challenged producers to stop putting sorghum in a box that restricts its capabilities to be a high-yielding crop.

“When we talk about the mentality of inputs, we don’t want to fall into this idea that sorghum is a low-cost crop,” Lofton said. “Being an agronomist, I call it a low-input crop.”

Lofton said originally the crop’s low-cost, low-input reputation was an attraction for growers to raise sorghum. However, farmers started associating many of the benefits of sorghum with caveats that have led to more negative connotations of sorghum. One of those negative attributes is lower yield potential compared to other crops. However, according to Lofton, sorghum has been competitive with other crops such as corn when planted in adequate conditions at OSU trials. Another characteristic of sorghum that has become a negative is it is considered to be a resilient crop.

“Although being considered a resilient crop is a good thing, we’ve sort of pinned this attribute against sorghum and it is often planted in non-optimum soil or bad conditions such as late planting,” Lofton said. “Because it will produce, we put it in the worse place and when it doesn’t compete with other crops, we assume it can’t compare.”

Lofton suggested growers flip their sorghum input mindset upside down and view it as a primary crop.

“We really have to jump in and overcome those hurdles when we start talking about the mentality, because once we think of it as a primary crop that we are willing to put inputs in, the low-input moniker is very positive because due to its ability to withstand stress, and we can almost see a better response to our inputs because of that,” he said.

Lofton believes the idea that sorghum is a low-input crop is because the seed cost is usually lower than other crops.

“We think of it as if I don’t have to pay a lot for seed so I don’t have to pay a lot for other inputs,” he said. “I want to transition that to if I don’t have to pay a lot for seed, maybe those saved funds can either be redistributed to another input that I know I might need or I could pocket those on a really tough year so I’m already in the positive before I even come out of that year.”

Lofton also advised sorghum producers to examine both sides of an input to determine if it is necessary.

“As an agronomist, I like to look at both the agronomics and economics of an input, but I always stress that the agronomic benefit of an input should be evaluated first because that is your primary concern as to whether it is a quality input or not,” Lofton said.

To learn more about Sorghum U/Wheat U, visit

Lacey Newlin can be reached at 620-227-1871 or [email protected].