National Sorghum Yield Contest Winners

Unexpected. That was the theme talking to this year’s sorghum yield contest national winners. Dryer than usual conditions impacted farmers from New Jersey to southwest Kansas, but despite the challenges of Mother Nature, sorghum still shined as a drought resilient crop that elevated these growers to the national winners’ stand in the 2022 National Sorghum Producers Yield Contest.

Article By Jennifer (Blackburn) Warren

Allen Walters


First Place: Allen Walters, Walters Farms
Clark County, Illinois
Variety: Dekalb DKS38-16
Yield: 184.21 bpa

Allen Walters farms in Clark County, Illinois, along the I-70 line between St. Louis and Indianapolis. His 2022 growing season started off with a full moisture profile and conditions that delayed planting. He finally found a window to plant in June, then it all changed. “When it got dry, it got really dry. We had a couple tenths here and there. It’s kind of interesting to see milo here in a different climate and what it can do just with how much it grew with no rain.” Walters said he ended up with 3-4 inches of rain in July and August, taking his crop to the finish line with a yield of 184.21 bushels per acre. “I was not really expecting it. I didn’t know what it knew. It loved drier weather; I just wasn’t sure.” Walters planted Dekalb DKS28-16 at 100,000 seeds per acre on 30-inch rows. He ran 110 lbs of anhydrous ammonia in the fall then came back in mid- to lateJune with a wide drop application to end up with 165 lbs of actual N. He applied 200 lbs of DAP fertilizer and 150 lbs of potash in the fall, as well. He also ran 2.6 quarts of Bicep and 3 oz of Explorer (mesotrione), and at heading time they followed up with a fungicide and a 2 oz rate of Baythroid insecticide. Walters said sorghum is a good fit for his farm because he is able to sell it to a premium bird seed market nearby, and he has reduced deer pressure. Walters looks forward to the next growing season and future possibilities. “[Sorghum] kind of floored us, but it showed us what it could do with dry weather, and [we] wondered what it could do with two more inches of rain at the right time.”

Billy H Bowers


First Place: Billy H Bowers Farm Trust
Davidson County, North Carolina
Variety: Pioneer 84G62
Yield: 218.20 bpa

Guy Bowers had adequate moisture to kick off his 2022 growing season, planting his Pioneer 84G62 sorghum toward the end of June in Davidson County, North Carolina. After a month of no moisture, the rains began in the fall. “It’s just one of those things where everything kind of fell into place. I started [harvesting] on the outside, and once I got in [the middle of the field], it got really good.” Bowers has moved his planting date back from May to June to capitalize on timely moisture during heading and for reduced sorghum aphid pressure. His ideal plant population is between 125,000135,000 seeds per acre, and he plants on 30-inch rows. From a fertility standpoint, Bowers tries to keep around 150 units of N, 125 of P and 125 of K. He applies a small amount of sulfur with his liquid nitrogen and some micronutrients. “It’s the same program I use for corn. I just cut back a little on the nitrogen so I don’t burn it up, but it’s the same if I were to try and make 175-200 bushel corn.” Bowers ended the season with a yield of 218.20 bushels per acre. He keeps 95 percent of his grain sorghum crop for himself to feed beef cattle, replacing corn in his feed ration.

David Knoll


First Place: Dylan Knoll
Charles Mix County, South Dakota
Variety: Pioneer 89Y79
Yield: 209.32 bpa

While the season started off very dry for Dylan Knoll in Charles Mix County, South Dakota, he received enough moisture to get his sorghum crop started, planting in late May. “We got a pretty good shot of rain for about 3-4 weeks after planting, so I got a good start and emergence, then it tillered out really well.” Knoll planted at a lower plant population, 90,000 seeds per acre, with an air seeder on 15-inch rows, which helped conserve moisture and reduce weed pressure. Knoll applied 150 lbs of N and 50 lbs of phosphorus. At harvest, the dry weather lent itself to exceptional conditions. “[The sorghum] matured really fast because of the weather, so it came out really dry and really even–the driest we’ve ever combined. It was really nice and clean.” Knoll bailed the remaining stalks and retained some of the grain to feed cattle. He and his father (pictured left) are not strangers to the sorghum yield contest and were unsure if their crop would stack up against the competition this year. “For the conditions we had, we had no idea it would yield that good. We sure weren’t expecting it this year. Sometimes we try too hard, and when we don’t try, it does better.” Their efforts led to a 209.32 bushels per acre yield this year using Pioneer 89Y79.

Deuver Farms


First Place: Duever Farms
Marshall County, Kansas
Variety: Pioneer 84G62
Yield: 180.19 bpa

Michael Duever of Marshall County, Kansas, began the 2022 growing season with adequate moisture and ideal conditions, planting his Pioneer 84G62 sorghum on 15-inch rows at 65,000 seeds per acre in mid-May. While the moisture waned and his crop endured a dry early summer, the crop was able to pull through and perform with a 180.19 bushels per acre yield. Michael put down 130 lbs of anhydrous ammonia, and during the growing season, he applied seven gallons of 10-34-0 liquid starter. The field, located near a creek bottom on 40 acres next to his dad’s place, has become an ideal location to grow sorghum, and his seed dealer encouraged him to enter the sorghum yield contest. “I know talking to some people you didn’t have to go very far north–30-40 miles–and people were hurt by the drought, but we were extremely blessed in our area.”

Jeffrey Barlieb


First Place: Jeffrey Barlieb
Warren County, New Jersey
Variety: Pioneer 84G62
Yield: 203.35 bpa

Jeffrey Barlieb said his 2022 growing season started off exceptionally well. “It was probably set up to be our best year ever the way things looked, then in the middle of June, that’s when things started to turn south, and we went probably seven weeks without rain.” Fortunately, with the addition of moisture and some timely rains in August, Barlieb’s Warren County, New Jersey, sorghum crop reached 203.25 bushels per acre at harvest. Barlieb planted Pioneer 84G62 at 150,000 seeds per acre on 15-inch rows in June, applying 300 lbs of N. “Our sorghum never goes in until later. So, I think the timing of the rain kind of helped us. I think we could have done better, but we’re thankful for what we have this year because everything else was pretty much a disaster.” He added, “my grandfather always told me all my life, Mother Nature is the boss.”

JnL Farms


First Place: JnL Farms
Appanoose County, Iowa
Variety: Richardson G37
Yield: 156.87 bpa

Joel Spring farms in south central Iowa in Appanoose County. With a wet fall and winter prior to planting, his sorghum went into the ground with a full moisture profile in midJune. “We had timely rain through about the middle of July, and then we went through another one of our spells from July 15-Sept. 7 with less than an inch of rain. So the crops had phenomenal potential, and a year like this reminds us why we plant milo here.” Spring’s investment in the crop paid off, and he harvested a 156.87 bushels per acre food grade plot. Spring planted his Richardson G37 seed at 105,000 seeds per acre on 15-inch rows. He applied 150 lbs of anhydrous ammonia, 50 lbs of phosphorus and 60 lbs of potash. The typical rotation in Spring’s area is corn and soybeans, but he said sorghum performs well on some of his tougher soils. “Even on the good ground, the corn was burning up into August and giving up, and the milo is still nice and lush and green. Years like this show us why we raise milo.” Spring markets his crop to West Coast food markets by shuttle train.