Herbicide Use Conserves Water, Tripling Sorghum Yields


Sorghum Yield: Bushland, Texas

Sorghum is grown primarily in Great Plains states where it is used as a livestock feed. Early grain sorghum production generally involved clean tillage for weed control which eliminated most surface residues. When retained on the surface, crop residues increase soil water storage which increase crop yield. A USDA-ARS laboratory was established in Texas in 1938 and numerous tests have been conducted on ways of increasing sorghum yield in the very dry Texas climate. When herbicides became available and tillage was no longer required for weed control, more residues remained on the soil surface, more water was conserved and sorghum yields increased dramatically.

“In early dryland studies at the USDA laboratories in Bushland, Texas, USA, most residues were plowed under. Residue management for sorghum production received a major boost when improved herbicides and planting equipment became available in the 1960s. Retaining crop residues on the soil surface with no-tillage and improved herbicidal weed control are largely responsible for the increased water conservation achieved since the early 1970s. For 37 studies at the laboratory, preliminary analysis revealed that dryland sorghum grain yields more than tripled from 1939 to 1997. A major increase occurred in the early 1970s when using no-tillage became common. From 1939-1970, mean yield exceeded 2000 kg ha-1 only six times, but exceeded that amount 20 times after 1970.

Soil water content at planting was the dominant factor contributing to yield increases with time. Most increases in soil water content at planting occurred after the early 1970s, when improved herbicides became available and using conservation tillage (crop residue retention on the soil surface) received major emphasis at the laboratory.”

Authors: Unger, P. W., and R. L. Baumhardt.
Affiliation: USDA-ARS.
Title: Crop residue management increases dryland grain sorghum yields in a semiarid region.
Source: Sustaining the Global Farm. Selected Papers from the 10th International Soil Conservation Meeting held May 24-29, 1999. Pgs: 277-282.

Herbicides Improve Dove Hunting in the Southeast

Doves over a sunflower field

Doves over a sunflower field

The mourning dove is one of the most numerous, widely hunted, and economically valuable game birds in Mississippi and the Southeast. For decades, landowners and wildlife managers have planted fields in agronomic crops to attract doves for sport hunting—a practice that led to these types of fields being known more simply as “dove fields.”

“…dove fields traditionally have been planted in one or more grain crops such as corn, sorghum, millets, wheat, and sunflowers. Although the concept of planting sunflowers to attract doves is nothing new, their use as a dove field crop has been limited over the years. However, when environmental conditions permit, a well-managed stand of sunflowers can be one of the most productive dove fields in the Southeast.

Weed control is a key component of managing sunflowers for dove fields. Doves prefer to feed in areas of clean, open ground. An effective weed control program will render fields more attractive to doves.

Herbicide applications are the most practical and cost-effective means of weed control in sunflower fields. For many years, only a few herbicides were labeled and marketed for use with sunflowers. However, because sunflower production is on the rise, more herbicides are labeled for sunflowers than ever before. Weed control via herbicide applications is essential for maximizing sunflower seed yields.”

Author: Nelms, K., et al.
Affiliation: Natural Resources Conservation Service & Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Title: Growing and Managing Sunflowers for Dove Fields in the Southeast.
Source: Mississippi State University Extension Service Publication 2725. 2012.