Ag Weather Forum

Early Summer Rain Pattern Brings Benefit to Sorghum Areas

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Rainfall in the western and southwestern Plains benefited sorghum areas in early summer but are still more than 50% in drought going into late June. (USDA/Drought Monitor graphic)

While the U.S. Midwest has careened into drought this growing season, western Plains stations have posted some eye-popping rainfall amounts. The month of May featured a reported eight-plus inches of rain near Hereford, Texas, in the Texas Panhandle. Lubbock, Texas, has recorded more than six inches of rain in May and June. At the edge of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs, Colorado, measured 4.02 inches of rain on Monday, June 12, wiping out the old record of just .69 inches set in 1989. Goodland, Kansas, May and June rainfall totaled more than 8.7 inches through June 23. McCook, Nebraska, recorded 10.94 inches of rain in May alone. The southwestern Plains and Texas Panhandle have indeed been in the rain track.

For the U.S. grain sorghum crop, the rainfall has generally been a favorable event. Sorghum conditions in the top six sorghum-producing states, listed in USDA reports alphabetically as Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas are notably higher than last year. The good-to-excellent ratings for the top six states as of mid-June totaled 60%; well above the 46% combined good-to-excellent total a year ago. Colorado sported a lofty 84% good-to-excellent condition sum.

But, while that mid-June condition rating is much improved from last year, drought is still a factor, especially in Kansas, which is by far the top sorghum-producing state. (Kansas produced almost 60% of the U.S. sorghum crop in 2021 and 56% in 2022.) USDA's mid-June Ag in Drought analysis notes that 55% of nation's sorghum production areas are still in drought, mainly because Kansas is still dealing with drought after harsh dryness over much of the last two years. The U.S. June 20 Drought Monitor showed more than half of Kansas was in severe, extreme or exceptional drought.

Sorghum is very drought tolerant, however, and official projections call for sorghum output to rebound sharply from 2022, when drought slashed nationwide production by 58% and the Kansas crop by 60%. The June USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand (WASDE) report calls for U.S. sorghum production to reach 360 million bushels (mb) in 2023. That total projection is 20% less than 2021, but almost double the drought-affected harvest of 188 mb in 2022. Given the boost in precipitation over some very needy sectors of the Plains in the last two months, that bounce back in sorghum production has a good chance of coming true and building back the sorghum supply following last year's meager harvest. Add in the likelihood of an outlook featuring El Nino-influenced additional precipitation for late season, and sorghum prospects are much brighter in late June this year than they were at any time a year ago.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at


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