Grain sorghum summary from down-state sorghum trials

These are the preliminary results from the Oklahoma State University grain sorghum hybrid trials.  Complete summaries will be provided following harvest.  Data from the hybrid trials in the panhandle will be provided following harvest.  These trials should be harvested near the end of October.  If there are any questions or comments please feel free to contact your local extension educator or myself directly.








Canola planting update: What can growers be doing to help improve upcoming canola crop

Canola planting is right around the corner.  While last season’s canola crop had mixed results with many growers not achieving the yields they expected, there are several things growers can do prior to planting that can pay off later in the season and promote crop productivity and success. 

Weed management:

Weed control is vital for canola production.  Successful use of herbicides can help control problematic grassy weeds, which is one of the primary benefits of integrating canola in Oklahoma production systems.  Within the canola production season, most canola yield losses associated with weed competition is early in the growing season.  Once the crop is established, it can typically outcompete most weeds.  However, this is only true if the crop was maintained weed-free up until this point.  Therefore, preplant herbicide programs are essential to make sure the crop established into weed-free conditions.  While there are a limited number of herbicide active ingredients that are labeled for preplant use in canola, those labeled are typically quite effective at managing weeds within the crop.  Most growers would benefit from a preplant program that integrated a residual herbicide to delay in-season applications until the crop has been established.  This is why one of the better preplant herbicides options is Trifluralin.  Trifluralin can help manage most fall weed species as long as the seedbed is relatively clean and the herbicide is incorporated into the soil within 24-hours of application.  This is why Trifluralin is a good option for producers that integrate tillage practices, as tillage can both clean the seedbed and incorporate the herbicide after application. 

Fewer options are available for no-till canola producers.  Glyphosate is really the primary option for pre-plant herbicide application, since incorporation cannot be done.  Glyphosate can still be used with using conventional canola cultivars, as long as the application is made prior to emergence.  Additionally, glyphosate can only control weeds that have already emerged and does not have any residual control.  This results in the need for further applications in-season.  Oklahoma State University is currently evaluating several other preplant herbicide options but as of this time these are all off label and considered illegal applications. 

Nutrient management:

Soil nutrient management is also a practice that can help canola establish and achieve good early season growth.  While we are very close to planting, soil testing and fertilizer applications are still a management practice growers can do to help the crop.  Soil test results should help guide fertilizer applications but enough P and K are needed at planting and early in the fall.  However, higher rates of both P and K are frequently associated with products that contain relatively high amounts of N.  While canola does need N in the fall, too high of N fertilizer applications can lead to excessive fall growth and in-turn potentially higher winterkills. Enough N should be applied to ensure the crop does not stress but limit fall growth.  Most growers should be able to utilize the 1/3 and 2/3 method, where only up to a third of the N is applied in the fall and higher rates are applied at green-up in the spring.    

One application that has shown benefit in canola has been an application of N and P with the seed at planting.  While these applications do not always translate to increased crop yields, especially if fields are not low pH or low STP, but can promote early season growth and increased root growth.  These applications can either be applied in-furrow or beside the row.  However, it must be cautioned that, due to the salt sensitivity of winter canola, in-furrow fertilizer applications cannot be made at rates as high as in wheat crop.  This application provides both N and P to the canola crop early in the crop cycle and allows it to achieve good growth early in the season. 


in-furrow_non in-furrow
Difference between in-furrow 10-34-0 and not. Low pH soils and low available P soils typically show greater benefit of in-furrow applications. (Photo courtesy of Josh Bushong)



Probably the most important management considerations are the decisions grower make around planting.  While other practices discussed can alter early season growth, these considerations will directly influence the growth of the crop. 

Cultivar selection:

There are several cultivars that are well adapted to Oklahoma systems.  These include both conventional and glyphosate-tolerant cultivars.  While there is a good amount of flexibility in the glyphosate-resistant cultivars, as they can utilize glyphosate to clean up weedy spots in the fields, yields from the conventional varieties have been competitive if not slightly higher when compared side-by-side in the Oklahoma State Variety trials.  Challenges with conventional cultivars, i.e. limited broadleaf weed control, can typically be overcome with adequate early season weed control and adequate plant populations.  These conventional varieties have value when growers will double-crop, especially soybean, behind canola as the conventional canola cultivars can be easily controlled with glyphosate.  However, with increasing glyphosate-resistant summer weeds and the availability of auxin resistant summer crops, these glyphosate resistant canola cultivars can be a viable option in double crop systems. 

Planting date:

Traditional planting dates range from September 10th through October 10th.  However, optimum planting usually is during the last 10 days of September for the northern part of the state and the end of September through the first of October for the southern part of the state.  When planting early, many producers just want to ensure that enough growth has been achieved before the first killing freeze to store enough reserves in the plant and rooting system to survive the winter.  This is a good thought to always have during planting but canola only needs around 6 weeks of growth to increase the likelihood of winter survival.  Planting on September 6th would result in 8 weeks before the first average light frost (November 2nd, NOAA), 10 weeks before the first freeze (28F, November 14th, NOAA), and 12 weeks before the first killing freeze (24F, November 25th, NOAA).  If a large amount of growth was the only factor in achieving high winter survival and good stands in the spring, then planting into good conditions as early as possible would be the best practices.  However, with increased vegetative material, high amount of water and nutrients will be needed to sustain the plant in later winter and early spring.  This increased stress can result in diminished winter survival and spring stands.  Pushing these planting dates back into late-September into early October can greatly increase winter survival chances in most years. 

Several factors go into a successful canola crop.  While many of these factors are associated with environmental conditions, proper management of planting will help with early season growth and over-winter survival, allowing growers their best chance at a successful crop in both good and poorer years.    

We at Oklahoma State University wish all producers a safe and productive planting time.  If any further guidance is needed regarding planting issues feel free to contract your local county extension office, regional agronomist, or myself. 


Preliminary winter canola variety trials results

Canola harvest is in full swing with the end right around the corner for much of Oklahoma.  This has been a trying year for many across canola growing regions in the state.  This has been no different for the Oklahoma State variety testing program.  Yields from both Kingfisher and Fairview were relatively disappointing due to high winter loss, poor conditions during early reproductive, and some hail damage during reproduction.  However, Pond Creek, Chickasha, and Fort Cobb yielded relatively well.  The other four locations will be harvested within the next week to 10 days depending on weather.  Keep checking back for other locations.


Sorghum Update: Finally getting going and questions about stands, watch the horizon for aphids


This spring has been a challenging one for many producers throughout the state.  Most crops have struggled at some point during the spring.  To date the Oklahoma sorghum crop this year can be fit into three categories, with some growers dealing with all three.  Oklahoma sorghum producers are not immune to this and their seasons can probably be fit into three general categories.  First are that growers were able to get the crop in a timely manner, had good conditions, and the crop is up and growing.  While we would like to see this on most acres, this has not been the case.  Most of the sorghum fell into the other two categories.  Either growers have not been able to get into their fields and still have sorghum in bags waiting to be planted or were able to be planted but have marginal stands.  For growers that have yet to plant, the question has become whether or not to continue with grain sorghum planting.  While most growers have to work through the financials on their individual farms, growers still have the ability to establish fields and be quite productive.  Historically, we have advised growers at this stage to hold off planting until late-season in order to minimize the impact of traditionally challenging environmental conditions experience in late-June and early-July.  However, sugarcane aphids have made the success of late season crop more dependent on insecticide applications.  Therefore, if growers are willing to budget 2 insecticide applications and be proactive on scouting and applications, this is still a potential option.  Other growers that have stands in the field and question on whether to maintain stands or terminate and replant.  This can be a difficult discussion and there can be quite a few things growers must consider before making this decision.  As a general rule, if growers have between 18k-20k active plants per acre, adequate yields can still be achieved without an additional seeds planted, especially this late in the season and if the plants still have a reasonably even stands.  If stands are spotty or skipping, growers can decide to plant certain areas of the field, while maintaining others.  If growers have less than 18k active plants per acre and growers decide that replanting must occur, several times growers can get away with over-seeding the crop over the current stands as opposed to completely terminating and completely replanting.  If growers over-seed, it is recommended that growers look at planting around half of the initial seeding rate.   


The validity of this critical 18k plant population to maintain a crop depends on several factors.  As previously mentioned stand distribution is a critical component.  An even stand can maintain high enough canopy coverage to cover the soil surface in order to help maintain soil moisture and help compete against weeds.  Another critical aspect is the hybrid that was planted.  Hybrids that have lower tillering potential would require higher populations to achieve adequate yields.  Without these tillers there just might not be enough heads/acre in order to maintain yields.  However, hybrids with better tillering potential can sustain these lower populations while still maintaining adequate yields. 


When growers have achieved stands, both weed control and fertility issues start to emerge.  If growers have made a large application on fertilizer preplant, especially N, with the current weather patterns we have experienced in the las several weeks, a good portion of this may have already been denitrified or leached deep into the soil profile.  This means growers need to be proactive with side-dress applications.  To trigger these, growers best option is to make sure to have N-rich strips throughout their fields.  If not, growers need to look for overly pale, stunted sorghum and be timely with an application.  Nitrogen fertilizer is not the only thing influenced by the moisture in these fields.  High levels of moisture and decrease the efficacy of many preplant herbicide programs.  Growers many need to make subsequent herbicide applications.  This becomes very critical as several chemicals need to be applied prior to the sorghum plant reaches ~30 inches tall. 

Sorghum stands with uneven stands (left) of even (right), those on the right still might produce adequate yields.

The challenges that this summer will hold for sorghum producers is still in question.  However, it must be noted that sugarcane aphid numbers are growing and moving north through Texas.  MyField website numbers as of May 25th, indicate the shift from populations solely in the Gulf Coast to several populations moving into south-central Texas.  While there is little need for Oklahoma producers to be concerned at this point, growers need to make sure they are aware of the moving population.  If growers are active on their scouting management plans and timely with insecticide applications, most growers in recent years have noted minimal impact of the pest on overall yields.  However, if growers get behind, sugarcane aphids will be a challenge for them throughout the season.  Currently OSU recommendation for applications are an average of 100 aphids per leaf blade.  To scout for aphids, growers need to identify 4 to 5 locations that are representative of the field and collect 5 to 6 plants at each location.  For each plant, growers need to look at the underside of the lowest most fully green leaf and the high most fully developed leaf.  If the plant is at flag leaf or later in reproductive stages, growers should scout the leaf under the flag leaf.  While counting aphids in-field on leaves can be a challenge, a good rule of thumb is 100 aphids per leaf is approximately the size of a quarter to half dollar.  As populations tend to congregate on the leaves, growers should also look for multiple smaller populations. 


Winter Canola Update and Outlook

With the recent temperatures experienced across the state in the last week, many growers may be wondering about the damage to their canola crop.  Prior to talking about the recent freezes, we need to look at the status of the crop as a whole. 

This last winter was one that had several unique challenges.  While this had not been the coldest winter we have had in recent years, periods of severe cold weather definitely hurt the crop.  Part of this was due to the overly warm fall that most of the state experienced.  These warm conditions lead to excessive growth of the crop, leading to crop stem reaching nearly 2 feet in isolated conditions.  While much of that state did receive periods of cold and chilling conditions prior to any major freezes, these were mixed with multiple day stretches of over 80°F.  This resulted in the crop not being able to properly harden-off and the crop was still somewhat sensitive to freezing temperatures.  This meant that freezing temperatures around Thanksgiving and severe freeze (-5 to -20°F) around the 14th of December resulted in fields or areas of the field seeing substantial winter kill.  Most of these fields have been seen north of the I-40 corridor; however, area agronomist, Heath Sanders, has seen a number of fields in SW Oklahoma having moderate to severe winter kill.  While the outlook may sound bleak, one of the most positive aspects of winter canola is its ability to overcome thinner stands by flexing and increasing branch production during reproductive growth.  Therefore, a couple of plants per square foot can still produce adequate yields.  Additionally, many of the canola plants may look like they have been completely winter killed but are showing “tillers” out of the base of the plant.  While these will not have the same yields as the primary stem, they can help overcome some of the yield losses that can be expected. 

This brings us to recent freezing events. The damage that spring freezes can cause to winter canola greatly depend on temperature, time at specific temperatures, growth stage, and moisture.  Soil moisture at time of freezing can drastically help save a crop that might otherwise see much higher freeze damage.  Another positive about the freezes in the last 7-10 days is that the canola crop has been in the rosette to bolting stages.  During these stages, canola can recover from mid- to low-20s temperatures for 1 to 7 hours with relatively little yield loss.  Longer consecutive hours, however, can result in substantially increased plant damage, which could state to add up to noticeable yield losses.  Therefore, the positively aspect out the crop is that most of the crop should still be in a relatively good conditions (as it pertains to freeze damage).  The major loss over the last week might have come at the expense of the “tillers” from plants that were partially killed during the winter.  Many of these lateral branches have seen significant damage and many will probably not successfully produce. 

As we look forward to the remainder of the season, it is important to be able to identify cold damage to the developing crop and know when the most sensitive periods occur.  Typical freeze damage and canola response, at each growth stage, that can be expected are below.

Rosette– Leaf burning can be expected; however, this is typically solely cosmetic. As temperatures warm, new leaves should start to emerge from the rosette. If no new growth is seen, severe enough damage could have been experienced that growth and yield may be limited. 

Bolting– Similar to the symptoms that can occur during the bolting stages as they did during rosette but these symptoms can occur not only on the leaves but the stem.  These symptoms include a discoloration of the tissue, resulting in the leaves and stems turning yellow, purple, or white.  Even with some damage, these plants should progress to flowering with little or no issue.  In more severe conditions, the still will be split or crack.  While this should have little effect on the plants ability to continue growth, these split stems may increase lodging and provide a port secondary diseases. 

Flowering and pod development– Cold temperatures at flowering can be far more damaging.  Unopened buds should still produce viable flowers (depending on temperature and time at that temperature). Open flowers or pods can be more damaged by colder temperatures. Flowers can abort or not produce viable seed following a major freeze event.  Early pods can become malformed and potentially terminate.  These will produce a permanent twisted and curled appearance. 

One thing is certain, these cooler temperatures helped slow maturation, if only for a short time.  This may help the crop in the coming weeks as freezes later in the season could potentially be more damaging the further the crop matures.  One thing must be noted, even with areas of field being killed over winter, we still must treat the field in the appropriate manner to ensure the crop following canola will still receive the benefits.  This includes making herbicide applications (as the canola crops still allows for it) to help control problematic winter weeds.

Agronomic management of sorghum to help with sugarcane aphids

With warming temperatures and March upon us, many growers are looking toward their summer crops and starting to think about acreage and planting decisions.  While there has been much concern over the last several years about the increased presence of the sugarcane aphid, growers should know there are several things that they can do now and in the next several weeks to maximum sorghum growth and productivity while minimize the impact of these pests. 

Hybrid Selection:

Hybrid selection is probably the most effective and cheapest way to help manage against sugarcane aphids.  Through the last several years, many hybrids have been identified to have varying degrees of tolerance to sugarcane aphid pressure.  Below is the current up-to-date list of tolerant sorghum hybrids that have been both proven in university trials and are currently commercially available. 

Tolerant sorghum hybrids.

It should be noted that these hybrids are resistant or tolerant in the truest sense.  With increased number of resistant weeds, we have denoted resistances either the inability to control or complete insensitivity.  Using this mentality, a resistant hybrid would no longer be affected by the sugarcane aphids.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  These hybrids are resistant in that they provide some level of resistance to these pests not complete elimination of the treat.  This is why many people will refer to these hybrids are tolerant or susceptible. 


While selecting a tolerant hybrid is increasingly important, it is only the first step.  Timely planting can be argued to be the most important step into a successful grain sorghum crop in Oklahoma.  Timely planting will greatly improve sorghum yields.  The major contributing factor to this is trying to avoid having critical sorghum growth stages during sub-optimal times of the year (i.e. sorghum flowering and grain fill during the end of July and the first of August).  Outside of the panhandle, the optimum time for planting sorghum is typically from early April through early May.  The further into May growers plant, the risk is increased that they will be pairing flowering or grain fill during hot, dry conditions.  It must be stated that this is only a guideline and some years May plantings will produce suitable yields; however, the risk associated is typically much higher compared to earlier planting.  Recent work at Oklahoma State University (multiple locations across northwest Oklahoma) documented at nearly 30% decrease in crop yield associated with Mid-May plantings compared to Mid-April. 

Yield by date
Percent of total yield associated with planting date.  Data is averaged from multiple locations in northwestern Oklahoma.

The benefits of earlier planting are more evident in current production systems due to the sugarcane aphids.  With earlier plantings, growers should be looking for the crop to reach the later stages of soft dough or hard dough prior to infestation.  This makes these pests only a minor yield limitation, compared to earlier infestations.  These pests will still have to be managed at harvest but yield in field is less impacted. 

Historically, if growers could not plant during the month of April, it was advised to delay planting until June.  However, with increased presence of sugarcane aphids, this will not always successfully save the crop.  Additionally, compared to years ago, double-crop planting has become a riskier practice.  This is because by the time the crop has reached the critical reproductive stages, sugarcane aphids will have built up on full-season sorghum and heavy infestations will be more impactful on these younger (already highly stressed) plants.  This does not mean double-crop production is not worth considering, but other critical management practices (i.e. tolerant hybrids and timely chemical applications) become more critical than with full-season production systems. 

Overall, proper agronomic management can help a sorghum crop that would otherwise not provide suitable or profitable production.  These, however, are not silver bullets and will solely help growers minimize potential risks associated with sorghum production and sugarcane aphids. 

Chemical options for aphid management in canola

With recent indication of aphids starting to building in some canola acres in southern Oklahoma, it is important to not only when and how to manage these pests but what are our chemical options.  An updated list of these can be found at:

It is not clear if these pests will continue to build or even move into more canola growing areas of the state; however, growers need to make sure to start scouting fields to not let these pests build this early during the green-up and spring develop.  As always, if you are mixing insecticides and herbicides/fertilizers when making these application, check the labels for detailed mixing restrictions and instructions.  

Aphid management in Oklahoma Canola Fields

Tom A. Royer, Extension Entomologist

Heath Sanders and Josh Lofton provided me with some pictures of a canola field that appeared to have significant winterkill (Figure 1) but it turned out that it had a severe aphid infestation. It looked like they were a mixture of green peach and turnip aphids (Figure 2). Canola fields need to be scouted regularly starting NOW.

Green peach aphids are pale green to yellow (and sometimes pink) with long cornicles and antennae and measure 0.08 inch. They occur in winter and spring on leaves and cause stunting and defoliation as they feed and build numbers. They can also transmit plant disease-causing viruses such as cauliflower mosaic and turnip mosaic viruses.

Turnip aphids are small, pale gray-green aphids that measure 0.06 inches with dark bars along the top of their abdomen, and very shortened cornicles with black tips.

Look for aphids on the underside of the leaves. Later, when plants have bolted, they will be on leaves and racemes.

Research at OSU found that and average of one green peach aphid per plant can reduce seed yield by about 0.5 lb. per acre. Latest quote for June Futures for canola at Fargo, ND USDA is canola can be contracted for about $0.18 per lb. Dr. Sholar says that a more realistic price is $0.14 per lb. Let’s assume application costs are $10.00 per acre. A simple calculation shows that an infestation of 143 aphids per plant X 0.5 lb. loss per aphid (71.5 lb.), x $0.14 per lb. would result in a loss of about $10.00 per acre, equal to the cost of the application. This is the ECONOMIC INJURY LEVEL (EIL). We typically set the ECONOMIC THRESHOLD (ET) below the EIL, in this case at 80% of the EIL (143 aphids x 0.8) = 114 aphids per plant) to give time to schedule an application before the EIL is reached. Table 1 is a set of suggested ECONOMIC THRESHOLDS, based on the cost of the application and a price of $0.14 per pound of canola.


Australian research suggests that a treatment threshold for turnip and cabbage aphids on racemes is 20% infested racemes.

CR-7667, Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Canola, contains current aphid control recommendations and is available online at Remember, green peach aphid is known to develop resistance to pyrethroids, which are the primary registered insecticides for use in canola. Consider rotating with another non-pyrethroid (Carbine before or after petal fall, or Transform after petal fall) if another application is required. Thorough coverage of an insecticide application is necessary to obtain optimal control.

In 2015, Transform® insecticide registrations were canceled due to concerns about honeybee exposure. Transform was re-registered for use in canola on October 14, 2016, but can be applied only AFTER petal fall. With all pesticides, review label restrictions for applications during bloom, to avoid exposure to foraging honeybees. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry has a Managed Pollinator Protection Plan and a website that can assist growers and beekeepers to keep in good communication with each other if pesticide applications are required

Decisions on late planted canola

With October underway, planters will be running through the field on a daily basis.  For canola fields, planting should be nearing completion.  While planting conditions have been great for many others have not had as good of luck.  Additionally, even growers that have had good planting conditions, these have not lasted for long in a lot of locations.  Good conditions have quickly changed into heavy pounding rains, good moisture followed by rapid drying and crusting, armyworm feeding, or more recent flooded conditions.  With this, many growers have been left with a decision of whether it is too late to plant, either initially or with replants.   

There are quite a few factors that need to go on when making this decision.  The first is, if growers are replanting, what kind of stand do they currently have.  For canola, often a descent stand with good fall growth is a good stand.  The hardest part of growing canola in Oklahoma seems to be getting a good stand after winter.  Marginal stands with good growth will be a lower risk and potentially higher reward than better stands and less growth.  Canola does not need a lot of individual plants to make a good to descent crop.  It has the potential to branch and utilize space in a thinner stand to develop more yield per plant later in the season.  However, grower should make sure they there is at least enough canola to make a stand in the spring even if winter kill reaches nearly 30-50% of current stands.  If growers decide to terminate their current stand, they need to evaluate both time and conditions on whether a replant will be successful.  With the critical time for canola planting closing in on us, growers will need to make planting a top priority in the coming week.  With descent soil moisture and forecasted mild conditions, growers should have until the end of the week (October 15th) to get canola in the ground and growing to still have a good chance at getting a good crop.  Without soil moisture, “dusting in” this late will be a major risk.  With cooler conditions on the horizon, canola growth will be severely restricted and lag behind the potential it had a couple weeks ago.  Planting after the 15th should not be advised, except for in very specific situations.  Planting this late in the fall could heavily rely on the first major freeze event occur well into the month of December for the crop to be very successful.  An early- to mid-November freeze could do in a later planted crop. 

The second thing a grower needs to evaluate is the planting conditions.  This will be true for both initial and replanted canola.  Good moisture, with limited drying could allow the grower to plant a little shallower than they would have in the last week or two.  This shallower planting will allow the canola to emerge quick and get better growth compared to planting near 1”.  Three quarters to a half inch is a good depth for canola into good soil conditions.  Without this good soil moisture at or near the surface, growers will have to plant much deeper. This deeper planting will make getting a quick stand in these late conditions more difficult. 

The final thing growers need to be thinking about, especially planting late, is other management practices.  These will include weed management, fertility, and pest management.  With late planting, crop stresses should be minimized to allow for unimpeded growth.  Therefore, growers need to make sure they are starting with a clean system, making sure they have optimum fertility, and making sure to scout and spray early for vegetative feeders (particularly foliar feeding worms).  

If growers can get canola planted timely and make sure to minimize other stress, many should still be able to have a great canola year this year.  With potentially better costs on the horizon, it is looking like a good canola crop will be a great cash crop for Oklahoma this year.