Category Archives: Sorghum

Grain Sorghum 2015 OVT Results in Virginia

2015 Sorghum OVT Yield in Virginia

I hear that several seed companies offer a 9% discount for pre-ordered seed, so I though this information may help.

The link above takes you to the grain sorghum variety trials results in 2015 including yield, seed moisture, and test weight. 22 hybrids were tested this year in full season and double cropping production systems at several locations in Virginia: Suffolk, Warsaw, Windsor, and Locust Grove. In order to effectively desiccate before harvest, the full season hybrid trial was grouped in two desiccation groups based on hybrid maturity.  The first table in the attachment combines locations and desiccation groups; the others show data for each location, cropping system and desiccation with mean separation by the Least Significant Difference test.

In general, 2015 was a good year for grain sorghum in Virginia. In spite of seed sprouting in the head due to storm Joaquin and the short “visit” of the sugarcane aphid towards the end of summer at some southeastern locations, yields were good. Only at Windsor yields were near to but not quite 100 bu/acre. For all other locations, yields at and in access of 100 bu/acres were obtained for many hybrids. DEKALB’s DKS53-53, DKS51-01, DKS54-00; Sorghum Partners’ NK6638, Pioneer’s 83P17; Sorghum Harvest’s SH59G4; and Alta’s AG3101 and AG1203 were top yielding hybrids in both cropping systems.

Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge the collaborators for help with the OVT trials this year, Dr. Wade Thomason with the Crop and Soil Environmental Science Department and Bob Pitman with the Eastern Virginia AREC.


Murphy Brown is buying sprouted sorghum

Some good news on the sprouted sorghum: Murphy Brown is taking all sorghum (sprouted or not).  They will be feeding sprouted grain immediately. They will be paying for sprouted grain based on test weight.  Same discounts apply as with non-sprouted grain (source: Barney Bernstein, Entira). I was also informed that on Eastern Shore the Coastal Commodities local elevator is applying a $.50/bu discount for sprouted sorghum, but they are taking it, too.

Sugarcane aphid update


Sugarcane aphid (SCA) infestations have been documented in sorghum fields in 5 Virginia counties (Suffolk, Southampton, Surry, Sussex, and Isle of Wight—see infestation map, below). The area of the infestation likely includes more counties, but this is just a guess. Fortunately we are late into the season and many fields have either been harvested or desiccated in preparation for harvest. We maintain that there are fields still at some risk—those that will not be harvested for several weeks, especially any late planted fields. We are not concerned about loss caused by direct feeding, but the build-up of honey dew and sooty mold on leaves and heads. SCA infestations begin on lower leaves and these are not as important at this point in the season and pose less risk if they get covered with sooty mold. But if infestations move up the plant to upper leaves and heads, problems with combining could occur.

If you have been keeping up with pervious advisories you know that the insecticides most commonly recommended for control of SCA are Sivanto (Bayer CropScience) and Transform (Dow). But only Sivanto is currently labeled. We attempted to secure a Section 18 Emergence Exemption for the use of Transform but hit a snag. Following are the recent comments from the EPA reviewer regarding the status of our request. “Due to the federal court’s recent (September 10th) decision vacating EPA’s unconditional registration of sulfoxaflor the authorization of our request is on hold and remains pending.  The EPA is reviewing the court’s opinion to determine their next steps”. So, right now it does not sound promising for the Section 18 use of Transform in Virginia before the end of the use season.  It definitely means we don’t have use of the product for the recently found infestations. So Sivanto would be the best alternative, but hopefully, fields will not have to be treated.


Sugarcane aphid update—spread and control options

Sugarcane aphid has advanced as far north as Halifax County, North Carolina—about 30 miles south of the Virginia border. To prepare for the possibility of sorghum field infestations, we have pursued a Section 18, Emergency Exemption for the use of Transform insecticide. This process involved a lot of good cooperation by VDACS who put the request together and forwarded it to the US EPA. We are awaiting approval. If approved, Transform (sulfoxaflor) can be used at 0.75-1.5 oz/acre and has a 14 day preharvest interval. Having Transform will give us access to the two insecticides that most states are relying on to combat sugarcane aphid—Transform and Sivanto. Since controlling heavy infestations it is taking two applications, having these options provides insecticides with different chemistries—always a good strategy.

We do not know if sugarcane aphids have infested sorghum fields in Virginia as we do not have a statewide sorghum pest surveillance program. According to FSA records, 12,245 acres of sorghum are grown for grain in 45 different Virginia counties, ranging from as few as 10 acres to as many as 1,000 depending on the county (view the attachment for a summary and FSA web site acreage source). With a crop that is this variable and widespread, it will be up to growers, crop advisors and local VCE agents to check fields for sugarcane aphids. As we have mentioned in earlier advisories, the crop is vulnerable until harvest.

Please let us know if an infestation is found so we can track this pest for future program development.

Sorghum acreage 2015

Sorghum insect pest update—and sugar cane aphid alert

Sorghum is susceptible to several insect pests. Both stink bugs and corn earworm are highly attracted to the heads once seed begin to form and both feed directly on those seed. Later planted sorghum is especially attractive to these pests as late sorghum heads offer a nutritious food source when many other host crops are reaching a stage that is no longer preferred.

We have seen sorghum heads in Virginia with large numbers of worms and severe head damage. We have also seen heads with stink bugs feeding. Growers should check all fields to determine if insecticide sprays are needed. The best and only efficient way to sample heads is to shake individual heads into a white 5 gallon bucket. Worms and stink bugs show up well in these buckets and can be easily counted. Sample several heads throughout the field and determine the average number of stink bugs and worms per head. Thresholds taken from several other states are pretty consistent:

Head worms (mostly corm earworm in Virginia)—an average of 2 worms per head

Stink bugs—2-4 per head at seed milk stage; 4-8 per head during soft dough stage

There are several insecticides labeled for use in sorghum that will provide good control of both pests. In general, pyrethroids are effective against stink bugs. To ensure the best control of corn earworm, use a non-pyrethroid such as Belt, Besiege, Prevathon, or Blackhawk.

IMPORTANT. Sugar cane aphid is also a potential problem for sorghum in Virginia. This is a new pest of sorghum in the US where it started in Texas and moved rapidly into the eastern states. Infestations have been reported as close to us as mid North Carolina and there is every indication that this pest could reach Virginia fields early enough to cause significant problems. These aphid populations can increase very rapidly and if numbers are high enough, the sticky ‘honey dew’ that they secrete while feeding can ruin heads and interfere with combines at harvest time. Please open and read the pdf below we have prepared that provides a lot of good information on this pest with color images to help with identification, sample procedures, thresholds, and recommended insecticides.

Sugarcane Aphid advisory_Aug_19

The Best Sorghum Hybrids for VA and the Mid-Atlantic

Not long ago, it was estimated that the break even yield for grain sorghum grown in the Mid-Atlantic is 85 bu/ac at the current seed price. Based on OVT testing in SC, NC, VA, and MD in 2013 and 2014 it seems that a good hybrid selection exists for growing sorghum as a single crop per season but not for planting after wheat as a double crop. For example 13 hybrids in VA and 19 across the four states produced average yields from 94 to 128 bu/ac in 2014. [2014 Sorghum OVT Summary] From these, five hybrids (DEKALB DKS 51-01 and 44-20; Pioneer 83P17; Mycogen 1G855; and Sorghum Partners NK6638) were also top performers across the Virginia-Carolina region in 2013 with yields at or over 100 bu/ac. At such high yield potential, they can produce 85 bu/ac and over in a regular farm setting. But double crop sorghum produced at the most 80 bu/ac (DKS51-01) across the Mid-Atlantic and 75 bu/ac (ALTA AG2103) in VA in 2014. Double crop grain sorghums did not perform better in 2013 either, when averaged across the region. There were a few exceptions; in NC certain hybrids (DKS33-88, 51-01, 44-20, and 55-33; ALTA AG2115 and 2101, Richardson Seed 92123; Southern Harvest 5964, 8064; and Southern States SS540) performed well under double cropping production. But, is this sufficient to conclude otherwise when neither in VA, MD, nor SC yields of double cropped sorghum exceeded 80 bu/ac? Better hybrids with improved adaptability to the region and this type of cropping would seem to be needed for grain sorghum to have a place in this region and where double cropping is practiced over hundreds of thousands of acres. We will continue to search for better hybrids in a double crop system within the OVT trials in 2015 and, hopefully, beyond.

Drs. Ron Heiniger, Bob Kratochvil, and Chris Ray and their teams are gratefully acknowledged for providing the OVT data from NC, MD, and SC, respectively.

Sorghum webworm larvae

Worms in Sorghum

We received a sorghum head sample today from Dinwiddie County with sorghum webworm (see image on right).  This is a known pest of sorghum and we have seen them before, but because of their smaller size compared to other head worm species, the threshold is an average of 5 per head across the field.  To date, we have never seen nearly this many in any field, but this is a pest that should be scouted for.  We are also seeing a very large number of fall armyworm moths in our pheromone traps here at the Tidewater Center.  Fall armyworm is another sorghum head pest (see the image below), along with corn earworm, and the threshold for these species is an average of 2 per head.  We recommend scouting sorghum fields until heads have hardened seeds.  If fall armyworm is found in threshold numbers and a treatment is needed, pyrethroids will not do the job.  The best results will be with non-pyrethroids like Belt, Prevathon or Besiege.

fall armyworm larvae



Helpful identification features of lep larvae found in sorghum heads

Headworms showing up in sorghum

We are getting reports of a few worms in young sorghum heads.  ‘Headworms’ are key insect pests of sorghum in Virginia and can include a complex of species but primarily corn earworm and fall armyworm.  In years with heavy corn earworm moth flights and infestations in soybean and peanut, sorghum is also at high risk of being infested.  Although we are experiencing a generally weak corn earworm moth flight so far this year, because sorghum is such an attractive host, fields should be checked.

Stay in touch with the status of the corn earworm flight via the new Virginia Ag Pest and Crop Advisory Blog (  You can view postings at this website, or if you want to receive the weekly advisories via email, go to the Blog site and sign up.

So what are the worm thresholds for sorghum, what is the best way to scout, and what products are labeled for control—all good questions.

We have learned that the best way to sample sorghum heads for worms is with a 5-gal bucket, preferably white. Relying on visual inspection of heads does not work well because you cannot easily see the small worms or even big ones if they bury themselves deep into the heads.  Bending the heads into the bucket and vigorously shaking/slapping them does the job—dislodges the worms into the bucket.  Worm infestations are not always uniformly distributed across a field so we recommend sampling 10 heads in 10-20 different locations in a field.

Because of differences in variety, planting date, soil moisture, and other factors, different fields may have heads at different maturity stages so keep this in mind and focus scouting efforts on fields with heads in these most susceptible stages—from soon after flowering when seeds begin to form until seed are hardened.

The most common threshold across the southern and central states is to treat when worms average 2 or more per head.  This is a good starting point.

A final note, a broadcast spray pattern is probably the least effective way to achieve a good worm control.  Treatments will be more effective if you can set up a boom with a nozzle over the row, or multiple nozzles to direct the spray to heads, only, and deliver 12-15 gal per acre.  The table below provides a fairly comprehensive list of insecticides labeled for use in sorghum.  We have generally achieved the best control when we have included a non-pyrethroid like Belt, Prevathon, Besiege, or Blackhawk. Check labels for rates and other use information.


Table of foliar insecticides and their active ingredient(s) for sorghum