Sorghum field

Like most of the Midwest, Kansas was hit with an exceptionally lengthy dry period this summer. Thankfully, much of the central area of the state is dedicated to growing sorghum — a known drought-resistant crop.

“Sorghum is better (than other grains) in dry conditions,” said Jeff Schaef, technical agronomist for DEKALB. “It is known as a water-sipper crop.”

In fact, in the midst of the drought, the Kansas Department of Agriculture had projected record yields for sorghum. With the area for harvest up 6% from 2019 to 2.55 million acres, sorghum for grain production was forecast at 237 million bushels; a 16% increase over last year’s crop.

“We have seen some surprising results this year,” Schaef said. “Especially in central Kansas.”

The dry conditions also permitted an earlier harvest. According to USDA numbers, as of late October 74% of the Kansas sorghum crop had been harvested. This was ahead of the 62% average. USDA NASS yield reports showed an above average 86 bushels per acre, which put it on track for the 237 million bushel projection.

“We are pretty pleased with the performances this season,” Schaef said. “Sorghum producers have been transitioning to no-till practices and we see pretty positive results.”

Schaef also attributes much of the harvest results to the hybrids offered by DEKALB. Known mainly for its corn and soybean products, DEKALB is a devoted supporter of sorghum, as well.

“Sorghum is an established commodity for DEKALB,” he said. “Especially in drought conditions.”

Hybrids that have proven themselves this year include DEKALB’s DKS37-07, DKS38-16, and DKS45-23, Schaef said. One of the newer hybrids on the market is DKS36-07. It offers slightly higher yield potential than the reliable 37-07, he said.

A popular new hybrid, DKS44-07 offers top-end yield for dryland and is sugarcane aphid resistant — a welcome trait this season with a resurgence of SCA in Kansas.

“We’ve had four or five years dealing with SCA,” Schaef said. “That has allowed DEKALB to develop hybrids that have excellent tolerance and suppresses aphid reproduction.”

DEKALB’s 44-07 also offers physical characteristics producers seek in their crops. It has a good height (not too tall) and strong standability, he said.

At this time, DEKALB is researching and developing even more new hybrids for the next sorghum season.

“We are testing a whole new class,” Schaef said. “But they won’t be advanced until January.”

Jon Burleson can be reached at  

Jon Burleson is the Midwest Messenger reporter, based out of eastern Nebraska. Reach him at