Profitable forage systems: Is double cropping BMR sorghum followed by a winter grain a viable cropping system alternative in the Northeast?

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2013: $14,840.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Janice Degni
Cornell Cooperative Extension

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: sorghum (milo)


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: double cropping
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Alternative crops that yield well at a reasonable cost of production are needed for expanding cropping options on less than optimal ground. We propose to trial sorghum, as an alternative to corn silage, followed by a winter grain on 4 cooperator farms. Sorghum appears to be a reasonable substitute for corn silage offering similar yields and nutrition at a lower cost. Sorghum has not been widely grown in the NE and we want to understand the necessary management for its successful production. We want to quantify the benefit from a double crop system with a fall grain harvested as early spring forage. We will evaluate whether this cropping combination is cost effective with consistent performance, adequate yield and feed quality. An in-season field day will give farmers a direct experience with this novel crop. Case studies will be publicized in print and on the internet. Three articles documenting progress through the season will be featured in our regional extension newsletter. I will partner with the Cornell Small Farms program for outreach for the field day as well as paper and electronic distribution of articles in the Small Farms Quarterly which is distributed across the NE in the Country Folks Newspaper. Case study summaries will be shared with colleagues and published in Cornell’s Dept. of Crop and Soil Science Newsletter, What’s Cropping Up and as a factsheet in the Cornell SPEAR Nutrient Management Series on their website. We will offer a webinar of the project findings in the winter teaching season.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    I will document the experience of four farms with this cropping system as case studies. Three of the farms are conventional and one is organic. Sorghum will be planted with each farm’s equipment once soil temperatures stabilize to 60 degrees, sometime between mid-May to early June. Two farms plan to rent a no-till drill from their local soil and water conservation district. Sorghum will be drilled at 3 sites and planted with an International Harvester cyclone planter on the 4th. Establishment will be in 15 or 30” rows at 10 lbs per acre, 10 ac per farm. The four farms will apply their typical fertility practices and weed control. On the conventional farms the safener, concept®, will be applied to the seed in order to use an annual grass herbicide (metolachlor). On the organic farm, compliant organic seed will be used and cultivation will provide weed control. Weather and soil conditions at the time of planting will be recorded. All field procedures and inputs will be recorded for each farm including; final seeding rate, row width, tillage, fertility inputs, weed control and harvest. Harvest will be measured with field equipment to the extent possible. We will use portable scales to record representative truck or wagon weights and record loads from the field. Forage samples will be taken for moisture and quality. If it is not possible to measure the machine harvest, a representative hand harvest will be taken. Fields will be visited on a no greater than 2 week interval so crop growth can be monitored closely as well as any potential pests or problems. An in-season field day will be scheduled mid to late season as a ‘teachable moment’ of the crop’s growth habits and performance.

    After harvest a winter grain; triticale, wheat or rye, will be established at 100 lb/ac seeding rate either drilled or broadcast. The crop will provide a winter cover, providing food and an attenuated environment for soil biology as well as an early forage crop for the farm. The cover crop yield will be measured and a forage analysis taken.

    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.