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Sorghum crop booming

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Corn guzzles water. Sorghum sips it. Both make good feed for beef and dairy cattle.

There you have it, the recipe for one of the largest sorghum crops in recent memory across eastern New Mexico and most of the state.

The USDA’s latest forecast calls for about a 5 million bushel harvest statewide this year — more than double the 2.3 million bushel harvest last year.

Experts say drought-weary farmers moved away from corn and planted sorghum, known in Curry and Roosevelt counties for at least a century as a drought-hardy crop. Even irrigated forage sorghum requires less water than corn.

“It will wait,” farmer and Curry County Commissioner Frank Blackburn said Monday. “Corn won’t.”

While sorghum tolerates dry and hot weather, it will as any crop take advantage of water such as the unusual downpours experienced by the region in June.

“June was a blessing for these crops,” Blackburn said while making his way through a sorghum field he said he measured 13 feet high. “The last two or three years it wasn’t anything like this.”

Farmers in Curry and Roosevelt counties grow two types of sorghum, according to New Mexico State University extension agronomist Mark Marsalis. Grain sorghum, also known as milo, on dryland farms and forage sorghum that is chopped into silage on irrigated land.

Forage sorghum requires much less irrigation than corn to yield a decent crop, according to Marsalis. It’s low cost to plant and fertilize, said Marsalis, “That’s the big reason that farmers grow it.”

Another reason farmers grow it in Curry and Roosevelt counties is because of increased demand from dairies fighting the high cost of feed, especially corn. The two counties are among the largest producers of New Mexico’s crop.

Statewide, 90,000 acres are expected to be harvested beginning in the next two weeks, according to the USDA. Last year New Mexico farmers harvested 68,000 acres.

“Most of the cropping shift from grain to a forage is to supply those dairies,” said Marsalis. “There has been more forage sorghum grown ... because of the drought.”

Add rain, Marsalis and Blackburn agreed, and you get the added bonus of larger sorghum crops at very good selling prices.

The USDA’s report issued Monday noted In the Texas High Plains grain markets, the bulk of bids were mostly 6 to 8 cents higher on grain sorghum. Prices per hundredweight closed Monday at from $5.59 – $6.12 at elevators from Canyon to Farwell; $5.86 – $6.04 from Plainview to Muleshoe.

The USDA an average increase this year of 11 bushels per acres compared to last year.