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Watermelon and Grape Investigations Laboratory Mimeo Report 59-1
January 15, 1959
GROWING SORGHUM, SUNDANGRASS AND MILLET IN CENTRAL FLORIDA
H. A. Peacock
Central Florida's climate favors the production of year-round
permanent pastures but frequent summer droughts retard the growth
of perennial grasses. Occasionally, central Florida experiences
disastrous freezes that reduce the limited winter feed of permanent
pastures to nil. For this reason, considerable interest is being
shown in quick growing annual crops that provide supplemental
grazing, hay and silage.
Sorghums, sundangrasses and millets fit well in rotation with
small grains, temporary winter pastures and winter legumes since
planting may be delayed until these crops are harvested. All are
considered efficient users of available soil moisture and often
exhibit tolerance to drought. All are adapted, also, to complete
mechanization of harvest as silage or hay. Sorghum has the
additional advantage that it may be utilized as a grain crop.
General Cultural Practices
Sorghum, sundangrass and millet benefit from a well prepared
seedbed as do other crops. Conventional methods used for land
preparation for corn or other row crops is satisfactory. Good
moisture conditions at planting time is important to insure rapid
seed germination and early seedling development. Sorghum, sundangrass
and millet may be planted at any time after the soil temperature is
high enough to insure rapid seed germination, usually a minimum of
65F. Greater yields are generally obtained from early plantings
than from later plantings because of better moisture conditions and
longer growing period. However, satisfactory forage yields have
been obtained from seedings made as late as July 1.
Fungicidal seed treatment increases seedling emergence and
seedling survival of sorghum, sudangrass, and millet, and is
beneficial in the protection of grain sorghum against smut diseases.
Arasan is probably the safest and easiest to use when treatment is
done on the farm.
Maximum yields of sorghum, whether for forage or grain, are
usually obtained from rows spaced 36 to 40 inches. Broadcast or
grain drill seeding is not recommended, since weed control in drilled
or broadcast stands is not practical.
Maximum forage yields of millets and sudangrasses have been ob-
rained from rows spaced 18-20 inches apart. Rows should be spaced
far enough apart to facilitate cultivation, but at row spacings
greater than 20 inches, or less than 18 inches, forage yields decrease.
Broadcast or grain drill seeding is not recommended.
Soil test should be used whenever possible to determine fertilizer
requirements. However, sorghum, sudangrass and millet respohd to the
application of a complete fertilizer. Some central Florida soils are
deficient in zinc and this element should be added to prevent white e
bud". Supplementary applications of nitrogen to millet and sudangrass
are normally profitable and should be applied in moderate amount after
each grazing period. Supplemental nitrogen applications to sorghum
are profitable, also, but to a lesser extent,
Applications of 600-800 pounds per acre of an 8-8-8 fertilizer
at planting time and side dressing with 100 pounds of ammonium
nitrate or its equivalent after each grazing period will normally
give satisfactory yields. Side-dressing applications should be
governed by frequency and amount of rainfall.
1958 Testing Procedures and Conditions
To obtain more information on the yielding ability, disease and
insect resistance and other characteristics of sorghum, sudangrass
and millet, variety tests were conducted at the Watermelon and
Grape Investigations Laboratory at Leesburg, Florida in 1958.
The central Florida variety tests included 58 sorghum, 16 sudan-
grass and 8 millet entries. Of these, 34 sorghum and 3 sudangrass
varieties were obtained from seed-producing or distributing companies.1
Fifteen sorghum, 13 sudangrass and eight millet varieties were obtained
from Dr. A. A. Hanson, Forage and Range Research Branch, Agricultural
Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Maryland.
Four sorghum varieties were obtained from Dr. C. J. Franzke, South
'The author wishes to acknowledge the cooperation of J. R. McNeill
Field Seed Company, Spur, Texas; Northup, King and Company, Phoenix,
Arizona; Stewart-Bawden Seed Farms, Plainview, Texas; and DeKalb
Hybrid Corn Company, Lubbock, Texas, for furnishing sorghum, sudangrass
and millet seed.
Agricultural Experiment Station, Brookings, South Dakota; four
sorghum varieties from Dr. O. J.. Webster, Nebraska Agricultural
Experiment Station, Lincoln, Nebraska; and one sorghum variety
from Dr. R. R. Kalton, Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station,
All entries of sorghum, sudangrass and millet were planted in
a randomized complete block design with four replications of each
entry. The sorghum plots consisted of three ten-foot rows spaced
three feet apart. Forage yields were obtained by harvesting eight
feet of the center row of each plot. Grain yields were obtained
by harvesting eight feet of one of the two remaining rows in each
plot. All plots received 600 pounds per acre of an 8-8-8 fertilizer
applied to the row April 23, 1958. The plots were planted on April
28-30 with a Planet Jr. drill calibrated to seed 12 pounds of seed
The sudangrass and millet plots consisted of four ten-foot rows
spaced one and one-half feet apart. Forage yields were obtained
by harvesting eight feet of the center two rows of each plot. In
addition to 600 pounds par acre of an 8-8-8 fertilizer applied to
the row April 23, the sudangrass and millet plots received 200
pounds per acre of ammonium nitrate on July 14 and again on August
29. The plots were planted on April 23 and 24 with a Planet Jr.
drill calibrated to seed 20 pounds per acre of sudangrass or millet
The stands obtained were good because of excellent moisture
conditions at the time of and just after planting. There were
stand differences among the varieties of sorghums, sudangrasses and
millets but they were so minor they were considered insignificant.
Moisture conditions were generally good during the growing season
with the exception of the month of May. The test plots showed the
effects of dry weather stress during May; however, no supplemental
irrigation was utilized.
The sorghums were harvested for forage yield when the grain reached
the hard dough stage and for grain yield when the grain was fully
mature. The grain of several sorghum varieties was severely damaged
by birds. Where a variety sustained 30% or more bird damage, it was
not harvested for grain yield. The sudangrass and millet varieties
were harvested when the earliest maturing variety was in full bloom.
Sorghum forage and grain yields and other data are given in Table
1. Forage yields are reported on the basis of tons (oven dry weight)
per acre and grain yields on the basis of pounds per acre at 12 percent
Among the 58 sorghums tested, nine yielded five or more tons per
acre. During the 1958 harvest season Hodo, Honey Sorgo (MN Texas)
and Sart were the highest in forage yield, yielding 7.67, 7.59 and
7.h5 tons per acre, respectively.
N. K. l15 was highest in grain yield but was not suitable for com-
bine harvesting. Of the combine-type sorghums tested, R. S. 610, Dual,
N. K. 135 and Texas 601 were the highest in grain yield, yielding 191h,
1122, 1535 and 1040 pounds of grain per acre, respectively. Dual
was the most desirable variety for grain production from the stand-
point of head mold and bird damage resistance. In a humid climate
such as that in central Florida, losses due to diseases, particularly
head molds, may be great. This loss may be reduced considerably by
growing sorghum varieties with open-panicle type heads. This type
head is less susceptible, also, to bird damage. Other diseases that
may occur on sorghum in central Florida and that may cause disastrous
losses during epiphytotics are bacterial blight, anthracnose, Helmin-
thosporium leaf spots and Cercospora leaf spot. The head smuts are
usually controlled with proper seed treatment.
Table 1. Forage yields in tons (oven dry weight) er
yields in pounds per acre at 12% moisture;
and maturity dates of 58 sorghum varieties.
Honey Sorgo (MN Texas)
Honey Sorgo (Okla. A&M)
Gooseneck T. S. 5680
Tons per Pounds
Table 1. Continued
Tons per Pounds per Maturity Height in
Variety acre acre date inches
R. S. 590 2.58 1073 6/23 48
Hodo 7.67 561 8/5 95
R. S. 650 1.89 a 7/1 48
Rex Sorgo 3.90 871 7/25 77
Martin 1.60 957 7/3 50
White African 4.25 a 7/8 84
Texas 611 2.42 827 6/23 55
Texas 660 1.88 1122 6/23 50
Texas 620 1.89 990 6/23 49
R. S. 610 1.71 1914 6/21 51
AMAK R-10 1.66 1568 6/28 87
Westland 1.83 710 6/21 45
R. S. 630 1.60 a 7/3 53
Combine Kafir 60 1.38 a 7/7 47
Plainsman 1..50 578 7/2 45
Redbine 60 1.60 759 6/24 49
Redbine 58 1.71 792 6/24 49
Redbine 66 1.65 a 7/5 48
Axtell 3.59 a 7/7 71
R. S. 301 F 3.58 1177 7/7 73
R. S. 303 F 2.92 a 7/8 76
Norkan 2.23 -a 7/8 65
D. D. Yellow Sooner 1.84 1617 6/24 43
N. K. 310 2.42 a 6/23 50
N. K. 230 1.87 125E 6/22 49
N. K. 145 2.74 2145 6/19 68
N. K. 300 5.05 1139 7/28 72
N. K. 220 1.55 1205 6/24 50
N. K. 135 1.69 1535 6/19 55
N. K. 320 6.13 1485 7/27 101
Nebraska 13 1.41 1304 6/28 46
Norghum 1.01 825 6/24 46
Reliance 0.84 429 6/18 41
Rancher 2.34 825 6/18 58
Dual 1.73 1122 6/19 56
12-7-2 Ms x 1087 4.65 a 7/27 92
FS-1 4.57 a 7/27 76
Mean 3.07 1072 66
aVarieties with 30% or more bird damage were not harvested for
Significant Difference: A difference of less than 0.86 tons
per acre or 124 pounds per acre between
any two entries should not be considered
significant in this test.
Sudangrass and millet forage yields and other data are given in
Tables 2 and 3, respectively. The forage yields are reported on the
basis of tons (Oven dry weight) per acre
Among the 16 sudangrasses tested, Stoneville Syn. 1, Stoneville
Selection and 31-13 Ms x Sweet Sudan were the highest in forage yield,
yielding 4.13, 4.13 and 3.90 tons per acre, respectively. The prevalent
disease was bacterial blight, and during a natural epiphytotic in 1958,
Stoneville Syn. 1 and Stoneville Selection were highly resistant and
31-13 Ms x Sweet Sudan was moderately resistant. All sudangrasses
tested were free of insect attack other than slight damage by grass-
Table 2. Forage yield in tons (oven dry weight) per acre and disease
rating of 16 sudangrass varieties.
STons per Height Disease
Variety acre in inches rating
Common Sweet 2.90 51 3.00
Wheeler 1.46 52 9.88
California 23 2.60 51 8.38
Greenleaf 2.16 45 3.25
Tift 2.70 h7 3.00
Ga. 337 3.33 44 1.75
Piper 2.35 52 6.75
Sweet 372 2.61 46 6.25
Sweet 372 (S-l) 2.04 51 4.75
Perennial Sweet 3.13 51 2.25
Stoneville Syn. 1 4.13 50 1.50
Lahome 2.61 51 3.00
Stoneville Selection 4.13 49 1.75
Perennial Sweet (Conner) 2.73 49 3.75
Common Sudan 2.48 54 8.63
31-13 Ms x Sweet 3.90 46 3.50
Mean 2.77 49 4.46
aDisease ratings were based on an arbitrary damage scale (0 none,
to 10 = total loss).
Significant Difference: A difference of less than 0.25 tons per acre
between any two entries should not be considered
significant in this test..
Table 3. Forage yields in tons (oven dry weight) per acre and height
in inches of 8 millet varieties
Tons per Height
Variety acre in inches
Starr Pearl 4i50 36
German Millet 8A 049 17
Common Pearl 2,71 34
Improved Starr Pearl 4.h3 33
German Millet R 0.74 20
Hybrid Pearl SJ 3.00 34
Pearl 7 2.72 32
Gahi-1 4.66 4i
Mean 2.91 31
Significant Difference: A difference of less than 0.36 tons per acre
between any two entries should not be con-
sidered significant in this test.
Among eight millet varieties tested, Gahi-1, Starr Pearl and Improved
Starr Peqrl were highest in forage yield, yielding 4.66, 4.50 and 4.43
tons per acre, respectively. Gahi-1, Starr Pearl and Improved Starr
Pearl were later in maturity than the other millet varieties, with
Gahi-1 the latest maturing variety. The German millets tested had
little forage value in central Florida compared with the Pearl millets.
Studies on the performance of 58 sorghum, 16 sudangrass and 8 millet
varieties were conducted during 1958 at the Watermelon and Grape Inves-
tigations Laboratory, Leesburg, Florida.
The sorghum varieties Hodo, Honey Sorgo (MN Texas) and Sart were the
highest in forage yield and were well adapted to central Florida condi-
tions. Hodo, Honey Sorgo (MN Texas) and Sart yielded 7.67, 7.59 and
7.45 tons (oven dry weight) per acre, respectively. Several other
varieties were well adapted to central Florida but yielded signif-
icantly less forage per acre than the above varieties. R. S. 610,
Dual, N. K. 135 and Texas 601 were the varieties highest in grain
yield, yielding 1914, 1122, 1535 and 100 pounds of grain per acre,
respectively. Although yielding less grain than R. S. 610 and N. K.
135, Dual is recommended for central Florida planting for grain
production because of more resistance to head molds and bird damage.
The millets were more productive than the sudangrasses. The
millets averaged 2.91 tons (oven dry weight) per acre; the sudan-
grasses averaged 2.77 tons. Excluding the German millets, the millet
mean yield was 3.67 tons. Stoneville Syn. 1 and Stoneville Selection
were the most productive sudangrasses, producing forage over a longer
period than the other sudangrasses. The hybrid 31-13 Ms x Sweet Sudan
was not significantly different in forage yield from Stoneville Syn. 1
or Stoneville Selection; however, the latter two varieties are pre-
ferred over the former because of greater disease resistance.
Gahi-1, Starr Pearl and Improved Starr Pearl were highest in yield
among the eight millet varieties tested, yielding 4.66, h.50 and 4.43
tons (Oven dry weight) per acre. Gahi-1, Starr Pearl and Improved
Starr Pearl are well adapted to central Florida conditions are are
recommended for their disease resistance, high forage yield and quality.
Gahi-1 is recommended as a late maturing variety. The german millets
have little forage value because of unproductiveness.
Sudangrass has been known to cause hydrocyanic acid poisoning in
cattle; however, this is not usually a problem in the Southeastern
United States. Pearl millet and German millet do not cause hydrocyanic
acid poisoning. The late maturing Pearl millets, also, produce higher
quality forage over a longer period of time than sudnngrasses.
Due to the limited testing of sorghums, sudangrasses and millets
in central Florida, the following varieties are recommended on a trial
Forage sorghum: Hodo, Honey Sorgo (MN Texas) and Sart.
Grain sorghum: Dual, R. S. 610, N. K. 135
Sudangrass: Stoneville Syn. 1 and Stoneville Selection.
Millet: Gahi-1, Starr Pearl and Improved Starr Pearl.