Kansas officials urge farmers to plant sorghum instead of corn, soybeans

Sorghum requires only 10-11 inches of water, as opposed to corn and soybeans which require 18-24 inches of water.

As Kansas prepares for its third consecutive year of drought, state officials are encouraging farmers to plant more grain sorghum instead of corn or soybeans, which traditionally use more water.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas Agriculture Secretary, Dale Rodman, were two of a handful of state officials who took part in a drought-related conference call on December 20. 

Rodman said the state has been advocating that farmers plant more sorghum, because it requires 10-11 inches of water, compared to 18-24 inches of water for corn and soybeans. The farmers are responding.

“People are beginning to think a little bit differently on the agriculture side,” said Rodman. “Sorghum production is swinging up this year, which uses about 60 percent of the water as corn, which makes it more indigenous to our climate. … Actually sorghum seed is in short supply in western Kansas this year, which is good because it uses less water.”

Brownback, a former state agriculture secretary, also stressed that Kansans use less water in all aspects of life.

“We can’t predict the end date of this drought. I am asking all Kansans to please take steps to reduce their water usage and to be conscious of fire hazards,” Brownback said.

The teleconference took place the morning following the state’s first significant snowfall of 2012, where portions of northern Kansas received as much as 5 inches of snow.