If milo had an Illinois champion, Clark County Farm Bureau member Don Guinnip would be a good choice, especially this year.
Since growing milo as an FFA project in 1968, Guinnip noted 2020 proved a good year for yields in the Wabash River Valley and unusually strong markets.
“There is big demand for milo,” Guinnip told FarmWeek. “This year milo prices were above corn’s quite a bit. Usually, milo prices are 10% lower than corn. This year, they were 10% higher.”
Milo, also known as grain sorghum, grows 3 to 4 feet in height with a large seed head. When Guinnip was younger, his family grew milo to mix with corn as hog feed. Today, he transports loads to Graham Feed Co., a feed manufacturer, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Guinnip noted milo’s attributes for less fertile soils, resiliency for some less-than-ideal weather and few pest problems. He grows milo on lighter, “white-oak ground.” With a fibrous root system, milo helps hold soil and breaks up compaction.
“Milo is much more adaptive to poor (growing) seasons” compared to other crops, the Clark County farmer said. “It is resilient to drought and low moisture.” In Guinnip’s area, if necessary, farmers could plant milo in late June or July “and still get a crop,” he explained.
“I’ve never had pest problems in my milo,” although some leaf diseases will affect a crop, Guinnip continued. Even “extreme deer pressure” is not an issue because the animals walk through a milo field to eat other crops, he added.
“If there is weakness, it’s weed control,” Guinnip said. “There is no GMO-type milo so there are no post-emergence herbicides labeled for use. You need preemergence grass and weed control.”
Farmers can rotate milo crops with soybeans and wheat, he suggested. Guinnip uses an 18-46-0 fertilizer. While milo can be planted or drilled, Guinnip uses a milo drum on his planter to plant 30-inch rows with a population of 60,000 to 80,000 plants per acre. If milo is planted too thick, yields will suffer, he added. A bag of milo seed costs $120 to $150 and will cover 8 acres, according to Guinnip.
When Guinnip first started growing milo, the crop was sold by hundredweight. Today in his area, milo is bought and sold by the bushel.
In the fall, Guinnip usually cuts milo after he harvests soybeans. “When it’s ripe, you want to get in there and harvest,” especially before wind knocks down the seed heads that would shatter, Guinnip explained. He uses a grain platform on his combine to cut off milo seed heads. The following year, the farmer no-tills soybeans into the milo stubble as a conservation practice.
Given milo’s strong attributes for less-than-ideal conditions and the current strong market, more farmers may consider grain sorghum in their future.