Forage sorghum gamble pays off in north west

Post-flood forage sorghum crop at Nelia shows north west potential

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The forage sorghum at Molesworth, south of Nelia, a couple of months after planting into flooded soil. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

The forage sorghum at Molesworth, south of Nelia, a couple of months after planting into flooded soil. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

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While all eyes in Queensland's north west have been on the ground-breaking chickpea crop planted by a drought-stricken NSW farmer, a sorghum crop beside it has been quietly growing another success story.

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While all eyes in Queensland's north west have been on the ground-breaking chickpea crop planted by a drought-stricken NSW farmer, a sorghum crop beside it has been quietly growing another success story.

The 607ha crop was planted by Warren's Michael Dickson at the same time as the chickpeas went into the ground at Molesworth, Nelia, for property owner Malcolm McClymont following February's monsoon.

While Mr McClymont felt he was taking a punt on the unknown - relying only on soil moisture to grow the forage sorghum - he now says it's a gamble that looks like paying off well.

"We baled it all, made hay with it, and it restruck - it would be up four or five feet," he said at the end of September.

"The roots went down with the moisture that was in the soil so it's still green now.

"I think it shows what you can do with this country. There could be a big future for this when the conditions are right."

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Corbett Tritton has grown both irrigated and dryland sorghum at Richmond, and the Lord family has been irrigating crops with artesian water north of Nelia for many years.

Mr McClymont said it had been daunting to spray what natural grass grew after the flood, to kill it and weeds prior to planting, knowing there was no going back.

"But where the spray missed, the sorghum is pathetic - the natural grass has taken away all its moisture."

Another view of the sorghum crop at Molesworth, taken in May.

Another view of the sorghum crop at Molesworth, taken in May.

The baled sorghum has a thicker stalk than what would be preferred but Mr McClymont said they had used what was available to them at the time.

They have since put cattle on the regrown crop, weighing them in as they did so, and will weigh them when they come off in another month or so.

Mr McClymont said they could put on somewhere between 25 and 50kg, at a time when cattle on their other grazing country were were either holding or losing weight.

Pulse Australia's northern region agronomist Paul McIntosh said the question he had was what the owners intended to do with the paddock once the sorghum was finished.

"If there's residual herbicide, what will that do post-harvest," he said. "I'd be keen to know what they'll do to rejuvenate the country - I suspect there's a lot of grass seed there from previous years that will try to come up."

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