New advice for western sorghum growers

Author: Rachel Bowman | Date: 21 Nov 2012

Close up of crop with a group of people standing in the far background

The bid to identify improved summer crop options for regions west of the Newell Highway has yielded new data on dryland sorghum plant populations and row configurations.

Loretta Serafin, NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) district agronomist and Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) northern panellist, Tamworth says variable sorghum yields are a major challenge for western region growers.

"Two years of research funded by GRDC, NSW DPI and Pacific Seeds has put growers a step closer to ensuring key planting decisions are based on specific recommendations for the western region,” Ms Serafin said.

“Based on results from the past two seasons, we are becoming more confident in recommending plant populations of around 50,000 plants per hectare based on preliminary results and while row configurations are still being evaluated, a single skip or superwide (1.5 metre) row is showing greatest promise.

“Emphasis should be placed on evenness of seed distribution which can be difficult to achieve when targeting low plant populations of 30,000 plants/ha or less with an airseeder.”

Results from the past two high yielding seasons have shown that plant populations of 30,000/ha are too low to achieve yields above 3.5t/ha. Plant populations of 50,000 and 70,000 plants/ha have performed equally well, she said.

The research showed that in high yielding seasons (4-6 t/ha) solid plant (1m) configurations out-yielded the other configurations (single skip, double skip and superwide).

However, the challenge for the project is to provide robust recommendations for row configuration which will optimise yields in all seasons.

Further research across a greater number of sites and seasons to explore sorghum production options in the western zone is currently underway.

Growers who have hosted on-farm trials include Dave and Fiona Denyer ,“Wattle Plains”, Cryon; Scott Carrigan, “Kelvin”, Gurley; Charles Boyle, “Amaroo”, Mungindi; and Philip Harris, “Wandahree“, Rowena.

Guy McMullen, NSW DPI Northern Farming Systems Research Leader said dryland sorghum research in the western zone had rarely focused on matching management to the environment and appropriate hybrids.

“Commercially, the adoption of double skip row sorghum has assisted in improving the reliability of sorghum in this zone but there has been little research on appropriate plant populations and the impact of hybrids with traits such as tillering and Staygreen,” Dr McMullen said.

Three contrasting hybrids have been used – MR 43, MR Bazley and an experimental line PAC2436.

“The potential advantage of Staygreen hybrids in seasons with high post-flowering stress has not been able to be tested in this series of trials,” Dr McMullen said.

“In order to finalise these suggested guidelines, additional trials are being conducted to develop a more robust data set in a broader series of environmental conditions and across a range of planting windows.”

For more information on GRDC-supported research, visit


Caption: GRDC-supported research is providing new recommendations for western sorghum growers

For Interviews:

Loretta Serafin, NSW DPI District Agronomist
02 6763 1147
Mobile: 0427 311 819

Rachel Bowman, Cox Inall Communications
(07) 3846 4380
0412 290 673

Region North