Sorghum Tips

Grain Sorghum Hybrid Trials & Selection for 2017

I attended the Amarillo Farm Show on Wednesday. I have about 10 seed company catalogs that include grain sorghum hybrids. At first glance you would not know where to begin if you didn’t have your own track record of preferred grain sorghum hybrids—there are almost two dozen hybrids listed in some catalogs. Many of these catalogs are “national” in that they list all hybrids the company markets, including what you might plant in Nebraska, Missouri, Georgia, or Texas, for example. In most cases, however, I visited with company representatives and have circled in my catalogs their primary choices for dryland and irrigated hybrids for my region.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research is publishing every week additional 2016 grain sorghum hybrid trial results here (also note the “Archive” link for results from 2015 and previous years on the same page). None of the current trials have any data on sugarcane aphid observations.

As producers across Texas consider grain sorghum hybrids for 2016, your recent experience will color greatly the value you place on potential grain sorghum SCA tolerance. Producers in South & Central Texas have not had as much trouble the past two years as was probably feared after the first two years that SCA appeared. In contrast, in much of the Texas Panhandle and the northwest South Plains, growers in 2016 faced tremendous damage in this area of the state where SCA arrived the latest.

For hybrid trials that various states set up to test hybrid performance in the presence of sugarcane aphid, there are several types of data that you may find as these trials are published over the next 2 to 3 months. This data will include:

  • SCA counts of aphids per leaf (including lower and upper leaves) and a reporting of how soon initial SCA infestation occurred and perhaps SCA counts at different growth stages throughout the season.
  • Reductions in stand of younger plants if SCA killed seedlings (although it is likely it can’t be assumed that all trials had uniformity of planted seed having a seed treatment insecticide; most hybrids planted in these trials probably do).
  • SCA damage ratings (likely on a scale of 0 to 9 or 0 to 10) taken later in the season.
  • Percentage of lodged plants.
  • Head exsertion (how far the heads emerged past the flag leaf; heavily damaged plants may not have the energy to push the head out very well).
  • Yield—but not just regular yield. Yield is the bottom line, and the best trial results will compare yield of grain sorghum hybrids with and without SCA control. This enables comparisons of the total impact of SCA on hybrid performance.

Watch for trial reports that were conducted specifically to evaluate hybrid performance in response to sugarcane aphid. Texas A&M AgriLife has several forthcoming trials, and we will be interested in the same types of trials from surrounding states. United Sorghum Checkoff Program’s Dr. Brent Bean will be compiling numerous reports across states. I will let you know when these reports are reported.

A note about Sugarcane Aphid in South Texas—Robert Bowling’s 2016 Summary

Dr. Robert Bowling, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension entomologist, Corpus Christi, published his season-ending newsletter on Monday, Nov. 28. He discusses the “head scratcher” observations, e.g., sudden collapse of numerous SCA populations observed in many fields in 2016, as well as a potential fungal pathogen of the sugarcane aphid. See his most recent “Rolling with Bowling” post here.