By Richard C. Snell
If you are a summer person like I am--meaning you'll take it 100 degrees over 10 degrees every time--you are getting into your favorite time of year.
For most area farmers, it's time for milo planting. We still have adequate time for putting in milo (grain sorghum) and getting top yields with anything shorter than a full season, late maturing milo.
For those who may read this and be unaware of milo being the nickname of grain sorghum. It is a tropical crop that originated in Africa and is one of the most adapted crops to the long term weather patterns of central Kansas. Granted, the last few years have favored soybeans but milo's turn will come again.
Kansas and Texas are the top two milo producing states in the country. It is a niche crop where the weather is generally too hot and too dry for corn. It is classified as a feed grain with normally about 85 percent of the feed value of corn. It can be used for ethanol and dried distiller’s grains just like corn.
Usually we say that if your yield potential is 120 bushels per acre plus on corn, it will probably make more yield and money. Milo is more consistent in drier conditions than corn. It has the ability to hold on while waiting for moisture to head out while corn doesn't.
The reason milo gets a bad rap is that there are fewer acres of milo and thus not as much private research goes into it for new traits like corn and soybeans. It is also more sensitive to herbicides and thus there are fewer choices of weed control products.
In our area, we have a wide range of planting dates throughout May and June. Not only are dates controversial with milo, but seeding rates as well. We find some people who use a planter and some who use a drill. Rates vary from 2 lbs to 8 lbs. depending on the seeds per pound. On a per acre basis, we go from 30,000 to 100,000 seeds planted. As we get later, I like to put on more seed to make up for less tillering. Also, we need to increase the seeding rate about 10,000 seeds per acre if it is no-till, just because it is more difficult to get the seed to soil contact and there may be increased seedling blight.
At this point in the season, I prefer a medium maturity although I have seen various maturities do well depending on the weather conditions the rest of the summer.
One point I'd like to make about weed control for milo is that Kansas State University weed control specialists are recommending that you don't use 2,4-D on the crop. Their research has indicated that even when applied at the proper stage on the label and when there were no visible signs of damage, yields were substantially reduced. In some cases yields were cut in half by using 2,4-D.
I get a lot of calls every year about bindweed, puncture vine, pig weed, and other broadleaves that people want to use 2,4-D on. They like it because it is cheap and does a reasonably good job on the weeds. However, crop safety is lousy. I would say use one of the other products for over the top such as Aim, Buctril, Permit or Peak. Banvel is another possibility although it is probably somewhat marginal on milo safety as well unless you get it on "just" at the right time. Mixing the above products with Atrazine makes an excellent tank mix if it fits your crop rotation.
If any of you have a patch of one of the above weeds on your milo, give me a call and maybe we could run some strip tests with different chemicals. It's a cinch that the weeds need to be controlled one way or another or all the moisture will go to the weeds and crop yields reduced.
By the way, going back to my opening paragraph, really I'll take 70 degrees as my top choice.
Cheat grasses and rye are becoming obvious in the wheat
This has been a banner year for the annual winter grasses such as downy brome, Japanese brome and true cheat. All of these are a little different. Downy brome is the one that turns reddish-purple as it matures. Downy brome is usually shorter than the wheat and has a drooping down seed head that looks like oats. It is not “wild oats.” Actually we do not have wild oats in Kansas. The reason that is important to note is that some herbicide labels will mention wild oats but not cheat or downy brome. Wild oats is a species found in some other states and is easier to control.
Japanese brome and true cheat stand taller than the wheat, although I will tell you that for what ever reason, even the downy brome is as tall as the wheat is this year. The seed head is a little more erect. There is more Japanese brome as you go north and west from here and more cheat as you go south. All can be found in our area.
The other “bad boys” are feral rye and jointed goat grass. Both of these also are winter annual grasses. Goat grass is sometimes called just joint grass. Jointed goat grass is usually just around the field’s edge.
All of these can be spread by wind, birds, dry fertilizer, movement of equipment and other means. However most of the time it gets planted. One or two seeds can result into a lot of plants, if not cleaned out.
The best thing to do if you have these is to plant something besides wheat. Crop rotation improves yields, reduces weeds, diseases and insect pests. If you can’t rotate out of wheat you can apply Beyond herbicide with the Clearfield tolerant varieties. Maverick, Olympus, PowerFlex and the old Sencor will battle cheat grasses but not rye or jointed goat grass.
Richard Snell is a Barton County Extension Agent.