Forage silage alternatives sought in wake of drought

Feb 27, 2012 By Kay Ledbetter
A Texas AgriLife Extension Service student worker helps bring in the plot harvest during Dr. Brent Bean's forage studies. Credit: Dr. Brent Bean

Silage worries have producers asking a lot of questions as spring planting nears, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

Dr. Brent Bean, AgriLife Extension agronomist, said he’s been getting a lot of calls from producers, dairymen and others who found themselves lacking good roughage sources last year for their cattle.

“Most of the industry relies on corn , which did not do well last year during our extreme drought and high temperatures,” Bean said. “The industry is now looking for an alternative crop that uses less water and can tolerate high temperatures.”

As a result, he said, many are looking at forage sorghum. Although forage sorghum may not yield as much as corn under full irrigation, it requires about 30 percent less water than corn and is more heat tolerant.

Bean said he has conducted forage sorghum silage trials in the Panhandle for many years and has recently summarized results from the last four years. The results of those trials can be found at under the agronomy program tab.

While the primary interest this year appears to be quantity, he said producers should not ignore quality, especially on silage for dairy operations.

Bean said he has included in his summary of varieties some indicators of quality, such as digestibility and  estimated pounds of milk produced per ton of forage.

The varieties in Bean’s trials were planted in late May on 30-inch rows at a seeding rate of 100,000 seeds per acre. Harvest started on early maturing varieties in late August and continued through mid-October on late-maturing varieties.

All the forage silage yields are reported at 65 percent moisture, he said. The varieties that consistently yielded above the test mean, had low lodging scores and were not photoperiod sensitive were: AS781, SS405, 849 F, 9500, FS-5, Millennium BMR, BMR Gold X and HiKane II. Two other varieties, Silo 700D and HP 95 BMR, finished above the test mean in two of the four years tested.

The average yield over a four-year period was 20.5 tons per acre, with a range from 18.4 tons to 26.8 tons per acre, Bean said. Eighteen varieties consistently yielded above the annual test average at least two-thirds of the time.

Lodging is an important issue in sorghum silage production and can vary greatly from year to year depending on the conditions, he said. Of the 18 best-yielding varieties tested, six had lodging scores of greater than 15 percent. If these varieties are planted, producers should plant a lower seeding rate and make sure the field is not over-fertilized with nitrogen to help prevent lodging.

“In addition, it is important that these varieties are harvested as soon as they reach the proper moisture, which is usually at soft dough stage,” Bean said. “Delaying harvest past the optimum time can lead to increased lodging.”

Explore further: Battling superbugs with gene-editing system

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Corn silage hybrids and seeding rates

Aug 11, 2011

Recent studies report that corn hybrids released in the late 2000s, especially Bt hybrids, require higher seeding rates than commercial hybrids released in the 1990s to reach maximum yields. Expectedly, corn seeding rates ...

Researchers develop drought-tolerant corn

Aug 25, 2008

At the end of the day, drought tolerance in corn has to equate to good yields and good quality, not just good looks, said a Texas AgriLife Research scientist.

Over-the-top grass control in sorghum on the horizon

Sep 13, 2010

Apply today's chemicals to a sorghum crop for grass control and the sorghum will be killed off also. But a solution could be only a few years away if Texas AgriLife Research plots are any indication.

Forage sorghum shows promise as energy crop

Mar 30, 2010

( -- In their continuing effort to evaluate crops that can serve as biofuel feedstocks as well as cover crops (and that can fit into crop rotations in Pennsylvania and the Northeast) researchers ...

Recommended for you

Woolly mammoth genome sequencer at UWA

14 minutes ago

How can a giant woolly mammoth which lived at least 200,000 years ago help to save the Tasmanian Devil from extinction? The answer lies in DNA, the carrier of genetic information.

Big science from small insects

48 minutes ago

Anniversaries are often a time to look back. But after taking stock of the past, it can be just as important to look to the future.

Battling superbugs with gene-editing system

18 hours ago

In recent years, new strains of bacteria have emerged that resist even the most powerful antibiotics. Each year, these superbugs, including drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis and staphylococcus, infect ...

Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

Sep 19, 2014

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air—and the soybeans—were still?

User comments : 0