Texas Agriculture October 16, 2015 : Page 12

12 O CTOBER 16, 2015

A Very Good Year

Jessica Domel

Spring, Summer rains lead to good Panhandle sorghum harvest

There’s good news for sorghum growers in the Texas Panhandle. This year’s grain sorghum crop is looking to be one of the best in years.

In fact, Wilderado farmer Dale Artho reports it may be one of the best he’s ever had.

“Dryland and irrigated both are doing well,” Artho said. “We had some rain in this area, which is great compared to the last four years. There’s good fertility in the soil and yields are good.”

Sugarcane aphids, which attack sorghum crops, were prevalent in the area this year, which did cause some headaches for growers.

“Farming always has its challenges,” Artho said. “We hope the predictions for a cold winter are right because if we have a cold winter, they won’t overwinter as much and shouldn’t be as big a problem next year.”

The aphids pull sugars out of sorghum plants, which inhibits the plants’ growth. The pests then secrete a sticky substance that makes harvesting difficult.

Despite that, Artho, who farms in Deaf Smith, Randall and Oldham counties, cut a field the other day that yielded 6,000 pounds per acre. That’s good news for farmers who are also reaping the benefits of a strong sorghum market worldwide.

“China has been buying a lot of sorghum out of the United States, primarily for duck production and also for a liquor product called baijiu,” Artho said. “I think we’ve still got good rallies at the port. The further you come in the country, the less those higher bases are out here.”

A stronger market means more demand, which is helping farmers like Artho across the nation.

While sorghum is used for both human consumption and livestock feed, it’s also being utilized in other products like ethanol and home insulation.

“If you ever buy any of the packing peanuts that protect what you’re going to send for Christmas to your grandkids, there’s a good chance those packing peanuts came off of farms in this area,” Artho said.

The packing peanuts made using sorghum are processed in Pampa and are biodegradable.

After this year’s sorghum crop is sent off for processing, Artho plans on letting his cattle in to graze. He’s hoping the winter months will bring plenty of snow the sorghum stubble can capture to help prepare it for next fall when Artho plants wheat.

Deaf Smith, Hidalgo, Wharton and Ochiltree counties are the top sorghum-producing counties in the state. In the nation, Texas is the second highest in sorghum production. Kansas is number one in terms of yield because of consistent rainfall.

Artho has served on the state and national Sorghum Checkoff boards, the state and national Grain Sorghum Associations and numerous other boards representing the crop. In addition to sorghum, he also crows white corn, wheat, cotton and raises cattle.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/A+Very+Good+Year/2296097/276607/article.html.

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