Weather contributed to poor milo crop

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Unfavorable weather has left Roosevelt County farmers with a poor milo harvest this year.

“It’s just one of those years,” said dryland farmer Grady Jenkins of Portales

Jenkins estimated this harvest from his 640 acres of milo, also called grain sorghum, was a third to a half of the size of last year’s. To compensate financially, he plans to “just tighten up.”

Milo is used as livestock feed and has a niche in the ethanol production market.

“It’s one of the more popular dryland crops around here,” Roosevelt County Cooperative Extension agent Patrick Kircher said.

Kircher said a long chain of events caused this year’s problems.

First, the area didn’t get rain during milo’s normal spring planting time.

“A lot of it was planted later,” Kircher said. “People were trying to wait until there was some moisture to plant it.”

Then the cool, dry summer hurt the grain sorghum’s growth. Kircher said what rain did come didn’t necessarily arrive at the best times.

To top things off, Kircher continued, a freeze in mid- to late-October killed the milo before it had enough time to fully grow after the late planting.

The unfavorable weather caused a light “test weight” in the county’s milo, Kircher said. A sample is taken from a load of milo to determine the weight of a bushel.

Grain sorghum is normally expected to weigh 56 pounds a bushel, Kircher said. However, he said this year’s Roosevelt County crop weighs in the high 40s or low 50s.

The price farmers receive for milo decreases as weight drops. If the crop passes a certain low-weight point, Kircher continued, it loses all market value because the weight affects what people can do with it.

Kircher said farmers are about half-way through the three- to four-week-long milo harvest. The harvest length depends on when the crop is ready and whether conditions stay sufficiently dry to allow machinery in the fields.

Kircher said the poor harvest is part of the challenges of farming.

Prices for commodities, unprocessed agricultural products, were high earlier in the year before the economy fell, he said. However, costs of inputs such as fuel and fertilizer are high, and commodity prices have since decreased.

“You tack on a tough harvest and just make a really challenging endeavor for farmers,” Kircher said.