Providing Ecosystem Services Utilizing Companion Crops with Sorghum

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2018: $25,077.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: No-till on the Plains
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Steve Swaffar
No-Till On The Plains Inc

Information Products


  • Agronomic: sorghum (milo)


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, cropping systems, no-till, pollinator habitat
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Grain Sorghum is a primary crop in the high plains in drought vulnerable areas. The crop is frequently planted in a no-till system, but herbicide and insecticide treatment is common place. In 2015 and 2016, Kansas grain sorghum crops were decimated by the incidence of the sugar cane aphid. The threat from this pest has not been eliminated, reduced acres being planted have alleviated the incidence in 2017, but those acres will increase again in the future; therefore, four Kansas famers will plant grain sorghum with a mix of companion crops to see the impact to economics, environment and sustainability of the practice. Each grower will plant 15 dryland acres of the sorghum/companion mix adjacent to a field of sorghum planted without companion crops. Companion crops will be designed to work in symbiosis with the cash crop to control weed populations, attract beneficial insects and provide nutrients. Plots with the sorghum/companion mix will have no additional treatment of herbicides or insecticides applied once in the ground. Adjacent fields with treatment of crop protection products will be used as a comparison. Soil health will also be analyzed on each plot by looking at several indicators that demonstrate improvement.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Demonstrate appropriate companion crops can be viable alternatives to crop protection products
    • Demonstrate which families of companion crops can benefit sorghum production
    • Provide demonstration plots available for others to observe as well as host field day
    • Document results of yield variance and economic differences between companion plots and non-companion fields along with soil health benefits ie: total carbon, infiltration, bulk density, penetration resistance, soil respiration and macro-invertebrate population counts
    • Share results of the project through the No-till on the Plains network of producers and professionals
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.