Comparative establishment and yield of bioenergy sorghum and maize following pre-emergence waterlogging

Adam C. von Haden, Mark B. Burnham, Wendy H. Yang, Evan H. DeLucia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biofuel feedstocks grown on marginal lands, such as those that experience ephemeral waterlogging, reduce interference with food agriculture. As early-season extreme precipitation events in the U.S. Midwest continue to increase, waterlogging tolerance may play an important role in the productivity of annual biofuel cropping systems. We assessed the establishment and yield of photoperiod-sensitive sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] and maize (Zea mays L.) after extreme early-season rainfall events in central Illinois. We used paired sorghum and maize transects, spanning from low-lying poorly drained areas to higher better drained areas, to evaluate the response of both cropping systems throughout the 2020 growing season. Sorghum maintained 25% mean emergence rates in areas that experienced the most severe waterlogging, but maize failed to establish under the same conditions. Despite the low establishment, sorghum yields in the poorly drained areas were upwards of 50% of those found in the better drained, whereas maize yields were zero areas in the poorly drained locations. The yield compensation in sorghum resulted from increased tillering, higher productivity per stem, and subsequently higher productivity per plant, which illustrates the greater phenotypic plasticity of sorghum compared to maize. Land managers who are currently seeking to grow annual cellulosic feedstocks on soils that are vulnerable to transient soil waterlogging will likely have more success with photoperiod-sensitive bioenergy sorghum than maize.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5602-5611
Number of pages10
JournalAgronomy Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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